Ten years ago, around 60 art galleries populated the Lower East Side. Today, that number has increased five-fold. Two architects, Nathan Rich and Miriam Peterson, have witnessed the area’s cultural shift and are now working on two significant projects in the area under their firm, Peterson Rich Office (PRO), which they cofounded in 2011.
“Most of the current galleries only come to between 13 and 18 feet wide,” explained Rich, discussing the gallery and residential block due to be built on Grand Street between Forsyth and Eldridge Streets. “What’s interesting about this new building is that there is going to be a gallery space that’s about 45 feet wide. Spatially it is more akin to what you see in Chelsea.”
Rich and Peterson agreed that this gallery-residential building at 282 Grand Street—and their work on the forthcoming location of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin—are a response to rising costs in Chelsea, where many galleries are being forced to relocate.
PRO secured work in the Lower East Side after bumping into project partners Vito Errico and gallerist Marc Straus—the latter having a long family history of building ownership in the area. Not able to afford Straus’s artwork, the pair offered its services instead.
“Because of Straus’s history in the neighborhood, it was very important to us to do something that is conceptually contiguous to that history,” said Rich. PRO conceptualized the building as a new tenement, retaining the proportional vernacular of 19th and 20th century tenement buildings common in the vicinity.
Covering approximately 20,000 square feet, the building will house 20 condos within seven stories, climbing to 80 feet. Aside from two penthouse apartments on the roof, the dwellings will all be one-bedrooms with around 550 square feet of space.
“The spaces are highly efficient, much like the original tenement buildings were,” said Rich. “Efficiency was the driving concept. They’re efficient, both spatially and environmentally.” The tenement typology is further referenced through a perforated aluminum rain-screen facade system, which doubles-up as a shading device and louvered panel for air exchange. According to the architects, the facade will be coated with a bronze colored Kynar paint, emulating the surrounding yellow and red street signage.
Rich continued: “The screen became a way to achieve this environmental efficiency. There’s also a language of sheet metal and cast iron used for awnings and fire escapes on traditional buildings that we wanted to reference with something that was much more contemporary.”
“By using windows as opposed to a curtain wall and trying to relate the scale of those windows and openings to the adjacent building, we’re trying to create something that’s part of the existing fabric but that is also new.”
Peterson, meanwhile, discussed why PRO proposed a full build-out of the site, which is currently occupied by a low-rise 19th century building housing a Chinese grocery store. “We basically found that the existing building was not suitable for renovation,” she said. “After looking into the project we found tenants had been removing masonry walls without properly replacing them structurally. We said to ourselves, ‘This is no longer made to last.’”
PRO also wants to set an example for future development in the Lower East Side—a movement that has already began. “Developers are not, as a blanket, known for always doing sensitive design or building things that have consideration beyond the status-quo,” Peterson said. “We are hopeful that working with architects such as ourselves to design a building that everybody is proud of will also inspire the next wave of development to abide by those principles.”
The building, due to break ground this spring, is slated to be complete in fall 2018. PRO’s new relocation of Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin on 130 Orchard Street is set to open fall this year.