2016 New York Design Awards

spaces, objects, visual, graphic, digital & experience design, design champion, best studio & best start-up, plus over 40 specialist categories

accelerate transformation, celebrate courage, growing demand for design

J + K Residence: Manhattan Penthouse [DRAFT]

Photo Credit : David Rahr

Gold Winner 

Project Overview

The J + K Residence combines two classic New York residence types: historic loft with townhouse in the sky. Set atop the famous NYC landmark Gilsey House, a Civil War-era hotel where Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde held forth at the Silver Dollar Bar, this new penthouse residence combines historic elements with dramatic contemporary architecture.

In the heart of Manhattan’s NoMad neighborhood, constructed on the roof of an historic Second Empire building, the one-story penthouse loft residence has been expanded to three levels. The new residence features an open two-story living room, twenty-four foot tall library, a contemporary open kitchen built into freestanding millwork walls, and a wine cellar built into the historic hotel tower.

The contemporary glass and zinc addition features a new master bedroom suite with a disappearing glass wall opening onto a garden terrace. Twelve-foot wooden doors and glass panels reveal a dressing room and marble wet room with dual showers and a freestanding tub; a sliding glass door connects with the garden terrace with an outdoor shower. A dramatic exterior stone staircase leads to a second rooftop outdoor living room with seating and dining areas, perennial gardens, and a second kitchen for entertaining.


STUDIO V Architecture


Jay Valgora
Gianfranco Cerini
John MacCallum
Gordon Wilhelm
Florence Orlando
Justin Leung

Project Brief

The J + K Residence blurs the lines between indoor, outdoor, and vertical living. Three concepts re-define the residential experience, integrating:

•Old and New
•Interior and Exterior
•Hiding and Revealing

The design exposes historic layers from the 19th and 20th centuries while creating a new design reflecting the 21st. Original 1869 wooden beams and angled wooden columns are exposed along with intricate pipes, steel columns and girders from the building’s late 1920’s conversion to a factory after the Great Depression. Contemporary architecture and materials contrast historic elements, and the modern roof addition of zinc, glass, and stone complements the historic cast iron façades and slate roofs.

Spatial transparency connects interior and exterior. Moveable walls open and close spaces to one another. A tall glass clerestory frames dramatic views of the Empire State Building over the two-story living room. Twenty-four foot long sliding glass walls disappear into the zinc façade and open the master bedroom to an outdoor garden terrace with restored historic handrails and the angled tower roof. Sliding glass and Corian walls open up spaces on every level, creating surprising views and spatial connections between different levels and from interior spaces to multi-level gardens.

Project Innovation/Need

One of the most innovative features is the way the design creates overlapping configurations of space through sliding doors, glass, and ingenious millwork. Spaces open to one another through large sliding doors: the Master Bedroom to the Garden, the Wet Room to the Master Bedroom and to the Terrace, the two story Living Area and the massive window to the Manhattan skyline. A sliding Corian living room opens the Children’s Bedroom to the loft—allowing it to join the living area when they leave home.

Custom millwork provides amenities for urban living, eliminating clutter: the kitchen is hidden in a freestanding Corian wall with a linear island, storage is built into perimeter angled roofs, and the children’s bedroom hides video projectors within drawers. The design accommodates flexible patterns of urban living: parents working, children doing homework, friends visiting: encouraging the entire family to use the house at every level for diverse simultaneous activities from relaxing to working to entertaining.

Particularly innovative design features combine different functions. These include the folded-metal, cantilevered blackened steel staircase that includes a wood-burning fireplace within the landing, or the two-story bookshelf with 22-foot sliding ladder integrating a hidden desk, retractable television, and storage units.

Design Challenge

The greatest design challenge was the requirement to pass through a perfect storm of approvals necessary to make it a reality. Due to the unique nature of the historic building and NYC code and zoning, the J + K Residence required four separate levels of approvals that had to be arranged individually and simultaneously to move forward.

The building is a residential Cooperative, and required Board approval for the owners to purchase the air rights. As an individual landmarked building on the National Historic Register, the addition required a full approval from the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission. The building is governed by a Variance from NYC’s Board of Standards and Appeals (ironically the hotel was re-zoned as a factory in the Great Depression but modified to allow residential use at the end of the 1970’s as artist lofts). And finally, the rooftop addition requires NYC DOB approval, with special challenges to build on top of the existing building.

The design team successfully surmounted all these necessary hurtles in record time to allow the project to move forward, but the greatest challenge was coordinating the multiple parties to coordinate and understand one another’s approvals—allowing the design to be realized.


The J + K Residence incorporates elements of sustainability into all aspects of its design, and the Architect is a LEED accredited professional.

The apartment is outfitted with Energy Efficient appliances and all the lighting uses high efficiency LED fixtures in order to reduce energy consumption and heat gain. The sliding glass walls, operable windows, and through ventilation design approach allows for passive stack ventilation during milder temperatures, reducing the need for active cooling. Mechanical systems replaced window units with high-efficiency heat pumps with zoning by level to encourage shared use with passive systems to minimize consumption and maximize efficiency.

All glazing is high performance Low E glass and the historic windows were perfectly replicated with double-glazing while maintaining the historic profiles. The contemporary addition improves upon the almost entirely uninsulated historic structure and a high performance building envelope assembly employing continuous small cell insulation and zinc rainscreen designed to reduce thermal bridging.

The roof garden features extensive native plantings with efficient drip irrigation that reduces the contribution to the urban heat island while assisting with storm water runoff, while creating a greener environment to attract urban wildlife.

This award celebrates innovative and creative building interiors with consideration given to space creation and planning, furnishings, finishes and aesthetic presentation. Consideration also given to space allocation, traffic flow, building services, lighting, fixtures, flooring, colours, furnishings and surface finishes.
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