2017 AIA Awards - Architecture
Beneath Brooklyn Bridge, this 700-seat theater has transformed the remains of a late-1800s tobacco warehouse into a thriving public/private amenity that anchors an evolving New York neighborhood and park.
The site, Fulton Ferry Landing, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has been a New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation property for nearly 40 years. Originally a five-story building when constructed in 1868, it was altered to make way for New Dock Street; in the 1940s, three stories were removed to avoid adding required fire protection. Left alone to deteriorate, the roof and wood framing were removed in 2000, and the warehouse existed as an open structure until ground was broken on this project.
In its new life, St. Ann’s Warehouse is a flexible state-of-the-art performance space that pays tribute to both the original warehouse and the DUMBO church building in which the arts organization was founded. To maintain the patina of the structure, the existing masonry was selectively preserved. To accommodate the needs of a performance venue, which required an additional 7.5 feet of space above the existing walls, a glass brick clerestory caps the structure, providing the needed space and permitting natural light.
Outside, a triangular garden designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh and enclosed by original masonry walls provides access to the lobby and gathering space before and after performances.
Hurricane Sandy flooded the project with three feet of water during the design phase, prompting new strategies in resilient design. The plans were reconfigured, and now double doors can be opened to allow floodwater to run through the space and exit on the other side. Water-resistant materials such as concrete and steel are used extensively, and plywood interiors can be replaced quickly and cheaply.
A welcome addition to New York’s rich cultural legacy, this project proves that innovative reuse strategies can turn an aged but historic space into a modern and efficient destination.