Location New York City
Size 30,000 ft²
Program Townhomes, duplexes, floor-through residences
41 Bond Street, a NoHo Historic District building of full-floor and duplex condominiums, is essentially a growing medium. The eight-story building’s striking bluestone façade is punctuated on the front with four deeply inset windows per floor, each with a modern interpretation of the traditional window box. Sprigs of green, red, and cream spill from each fenestration, the products of various plants: alba (clematis montana), nana (ophiopogon japonicus), pencil point (juniperus communis), and vision in white (astilbe chinensis).
Complementary plantings from the building’s top-floor brow, plus the roof of its street-level marquee, show that this is a building that celebrates nature inside and out—a welcome respite from the city’s dense built environment.
The back of the building is swathed in plants on an even grander scale, which has a lot to do with the journey Peter Guthrie, head of design and construction at DDG Partners, a real estate development and architecture firm based in the West Village, and his colleagues took to get 41 Bond approved by the district’s landmarks commission. Guthrie wasn’t just selling an environmentally conscious building or one clad in an unusual material. What most concerned the commission, initially, was that 41 Bond would have balconies on its backside that faced neighboring residences. “From day one, we had to make the case for design to the commission,” says Guthrie. “But we had experimented with green roofs and wall planters in projects in Brooklyn and Tribeca.”
The developer painstakingly presented to the commission what this building could do for its neighborhood. The bluestone, its primary material, is a utilitarian one, more typically used in sidewalks, patios, and window lintels in brownstones. “It bridges the gap between the industrial buildings already on the street and this contemporary building,” Guthrie says. The team built a full-scale mock-up of the process by which the stone would be fashioned by local craftsmen. (The material was sourced from Tompkins Bluestone quarry in upstate New York.)
Developer DDG Partners
Architect of Record H. Thomas O’Hara
Lighting Fritzmartin Electric
Structural Engineer Robert Silman Associates
The balconies, 28-foot-wide terraces actually, worried some people who thought it would be a place to park outdoor barbecue grills and little else. But the subway grating used for the terrace railings would come with growing habitats (now planted with clematis and other climbing plants). Interestingly, the landmarks commission’s review of 41 Bond’s proposed balconies brought to light an important question: does the district want only closed-off spaces where no one sees his or her neighbors?
“The debate raised an interesting discussion on the life of the city,” Guthrie says. “Thankfully, there were several architects on the commission who understood this and what we could do with plants to establish a certain degree of privacy. You’re not looking at railings. You’re looking at a fantastic array of green.”
41 Bond Street was approved and built for occupancy in 2012. All units sold within a month. The penthouse closed at $8.4 million at $3,100 per square foot while lower-floor apartments averaged around $2,500 per square foot. Shortly thereafter, several Big Apple real estate writers noted that such prices mark a post-recession resurgence at the upper end of the market, and Guthrie admits that many were surprised with the project’s success.
Certification Not applicable
Site 1,200-square-foot landscaped rear yard
Exterior Native bluestone façade
Vegetation Irrigated exterior planting system, green marquee and terrace screens
Energy Daiken HVAC system, radiant heat, green screens for solar shading
Timing of both the land purchase and the sell period worked in DDG’s favor, Guthrie says, adding that the price point would probably have been lower if his team hadn’t taken extra care with the design. “The inside-out nature of the window plantings creates a foreground for looking at the street,” Guthrie says. “It’s unbelievably romantic.” His team added bluestone around the fireplace and in the guest bathrooms, further blurring the lines between the building’s interior and exterior spaces.
Craftsmanship and ingenuity are evident. The windows pivot 180 degrees on a center axis, making for easy maintenance, while glass-hugging gaskets preclude the need for weatherproof overlapping trim. Credit for the success is shared between a dedicated team. Brooklyn-based Fritzmartin Electric engineered the lighting, including the dramatic illumination of the back balcony plant screens. Carrara marble in the master baths and kitchen counters was cut and fabricated by Antonov Stone Work, also from Brooklyn.
Robert Silman Associates, a structural engineering firm, “willingly participated in creative dialogue,” Guthrie says, “including [about] the fantastically cantilevered marquee.” And H. Thomas O’Hara Architect (HTO Architect), the architect of record, worked out the integration of water and plant growth into the masonry construction, as well as the permitting necessary throughout the project.
Typically, developers are not known for pushing the envelope of design. But DDG upends that notion, in part because it begins with a very fundamental factor: who provides their financing. “We work with a unique group of investors who are supportive of progressive design,” Guthrie says. “Many are involved in multiple projects.”
The German word gesamtkunstwerk, or ‘the total work of art,’ is how Guthrie describes DDG’s strategy. “Good design makes a 1,000 percent difference in selling faster and at better prices,” he says. “This has worked for us in New York straight through the recession.” Which is a work of art in itself.