Archtober Building of the Day 25> Van Alen Institute

Architecture East
Van Alen Institute (Courtesy Julia Cohen)

Van Alen Institute (Courtesy Julia Cohen)

Archtober Building of the Day #25
Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street, New York
Collective-LOK

Three friends from architecture school, Jon Lott (PARA-Project), William O’Brien Jr. (WOJR), and Michael Kubo (pinkcomma gallery), joined forces to form Collective-LOK in 2013. Together, they entered the Van Alen Institute’s Ground/Work competition to redesign the organization’s office and programming space on West 22nd Street.

(Courtesy Julia Cohen)

(Courtesy Julia Cohen)

Their proposal, Screen Play, linked the institute’s headquarters with the surrounding urban realm using screens to bracket the front and back facades: one just beyond the sliding glass door in the back wall, and the other, ultimately unrealized, that would have expanded into the street as part of a Department of Transportation initiative to transform and activate parking spaces.

Those who recall the Van Alen Institute’s brief foray into the world of book selling might be disappointed to see this domain relegated to a single bookshelf at the entrance and a mini-library in the smaller of two conference rooms. This was an intentional decision, however, because the retail activity was distracting from the organization’s programmatic mission. Now, books on display at the front are carefully curated, and a book club continues to engage design-oriented bibliophiles.

Screens of all types in the interior provide flexible pockets of space within a small footprint. The “bulge,” an enclosed area that houses fixed programs, including bathrooms, a kitchen, and conference rooms, faces a content wall that, when in use, draws passersby into the multipurpose space. This wall, which was given a subtle dado of glossy paint to protect it from the constant activity, will display a continuous projection along its upper matte section.

(Courtesy Julia Cohen)

(Courtesy Julia Cohen)

Wiring for this projection is already in place in yet another screen, in this case a ceiling composed of oblique metal coffers that shield, but do not completely mask, the lighting and audio-visual systems. The acoustical insulation above was left in its original, textured state, and will eventually be touched up to blend more seamlessly into its surroundings. Lott mentioned that some items on the punch list are still being resolved. As one visitor remarked, “This is the most beautiful popcorn ceiling I’ve ever seen.”

We can’t wait to come back and see the space transformed during the Van Alen’s fall events, when the office desks and chairs will be relegated to the basement to make way for screenings, cocktail hours, and performances.

Tomorrow, we’ll visit El Barrio’s Artspace PS109.

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