72 Mercer, SoHo, NYC

how to design two completely different facades with maximum economy of elements

Location: 72 Mercer/501 Broadway, SoHo Historic District, New York City

Completion: 2008
Project Size: 7 Stories, 42,000 SF
Project Type: New Mixed Use Building Complex and Interior Design
Client: Charles Dunne Developer

72 Mercer Building

This is TRA's inaugural new building and the first of the many projects that TRA completed in the SoHo Historic District. The sum rises at the urban scale becoming integral to the improvement of the larger fabric and neighborhood enhancing.

501 Broadway and 72 Mercer are two distinct buildings connected only at the ground floor. In 2000 when the design was first conceived, it was the second new project approved by the Landmarks Commission in SoHo. Its approval set a precedent for new zoning regulations, allowing for residential construction on vacant lots in the manufacturing district of SoHo. The site, 30 feet wide by 200 feet long, is located between Broadway and Mercer Streets in the SoHo Cast Iron District. The original 1870's building was destroyed by fire in the 1960’s.

The façades on the Broadway side were designed to be monumental, often constructed in stone, with a secondary utilitarian facade on the narrower and gritty Mercer Street.
The proposed 42,000 SF new mixed use complex with retail on the ground floor and loft apartments above, spans the entire lot between Broadway and Mercer Streets, with a courtyard in the middle.

The new building makes subtle references to the urban context. The geometry of both facades fits with the pattern of the surroundings, but at the same time the new building responds to the need to stand out as a contemporary statement. 
Loft buildings and the spaces that are created, are by definition “pure rooms”, thus like in the old loft buildings, the architecture plays on the thickness of the building skin that encloses it. This thick skin is at once the connection to the past and a bridge to the present. It also creates a sense of privacy to buffer the interior space from the street. In the proposed design the depth of the window wall assembly is created by the movement of the spandrel panel inward.
As seen in the surrounding cast-iron loft buildings, very few pre-fabricated elements are utilized in order to create two similar but different facades. The Broadway building facade is five stories and is organized around a central set of windows while on the Mercer Street building, which is seven stories tall, the façade is organized around a central pilaster. Both facades utilize one pilaster and one window design, similarly to the original cast-iron catalogues.

72 Mercer Residences

The interior is designed and built with the same care as the exterior. Like the facade finds balance between the architecture of the surrounding buildings and the contemporary insertion, similarly the interior builds on all the attributes that make the old loft apartments desirable, within a modern, efficient interior.

The Broadway and Mercer curtain walls, as in all of TRA's new buildings, is the main architectural element, both on the outside as well as from the inside, the feature perforated bulkhead panel allows screens the light providing a sense of privacy. The two rear facades, which have been designed with the same attention to detail of the main facades, line a private treed court.


Hooray for a simple building with nice details, fitting into the background in this historic district” 
White, Willensky, 17th AIA Guide to New York City, Leadon, Oxford Press 2010, page 120

“This lovely little building manages to be contextual, contemporary, graceful and engaging, all at the same time. This is no small feat in the historic district of SoHo..” “the building is impeccably proportioned..” 
McMillan, Richard, 101 Cool Buildings, The Best of New York City Architecture, 1999-2009, page 7, New York, 2010

The New York Times, In New York, A Sprinkling of Higher Prices, by Vivian Toy, August 19, 2011

AIA Guide to New York City, Norval White, Elliot Willensky, Fran Leadon, 2010

CityRealty, 72 Mercer by Carter Horsley

Hausftzgerald.com, 72 Mercer, by Dickse’ Fitzgerald