The architecture of 75 Kenmare is about the fundamentals of materiality, solidity, and proportional clarity. Its poetic concrete facade is made out of the simplest of materials and executed with imaginative detailing to create a building with a timeless and robust presence. Sitting at the bustling pedestrian thoroughfare of Kenmare and Mulberry, in the very heart of NoLita — at the junction of Soho, NoHo, the Lower East Side, and Little Italy — the 83,000 ft² residential building offers 38 apartments ranging in size from 600 to 3,000 ft².
Andre Kikoski, AIA the founder and principal said,
“We wanted to combine our love of basic materials and thoughtful detailing with handcrafted workmanship to create a building that both inspires and gives to its neighbourhood. Our goal was to create a building that is startlingly crisp and contemporary, but is also completely at ease with the many layers and lessons of history from its vibrant surroundings to create a singular sense of place in the city.”
At 75 Kenmare, Kikoski addresses the building’s physical and cultural relationship to the area, the careful selection of construction materials, and the challenge of creating a new vision for a residential building knit into the very fabric of a neighbourhood — and resolves them all with deeply engaging and enduring architecture. The building’s massing speaks to the scale of the neighbourhood while contrasting with its surroundings through a distinctly detailed concrete facade. While concrete is not a conventional or common choice for a contemporary urban residential building, it’s humble ingredients can be cast into any shape, form, or colour — mapping the gritty residue of this authentic area and its rich history onto a highly original facade. The building takes inspiration from sources such as the work of Donald Judd, who lived in the area, and the pure materiality and sculpted light qualities seen in the architecture of Álvaro Siza and Rafael Moneo.
“We are deliberate about the buildings we create and their place in the world, our architecture relies deeply on the proper choice and handling of materials. Concrete is the perfect selection for 75 Kenmare. It is inherently malleable allowing us to render simple linear channel-like forms that move in and out of their facade as they rise the vertical height of the building. With deceptive simplicity, each line and plane of the concrete is placed to modulate the shifting sunlight. These variations of negative and positive form make space in the skin of the building for the play of light and the ephemeral beauty of shade and shadow, creating a sense of poetry and joy for all who pass by.”
Inherent in the architecture is a commitment to creating a building that actively participates in the life of the neighbourhood. Sited on a prominent corner and adjacent to a public park, the massing of the building is organised to create six extensively windowed facades and an abundantly planted second-floor meditative garden that flows visually and spatially into the public park. This strategy makes softly-edged and generously permeable spaces that generate engaging views throughout and within the neighbourhood and the building. The multi-story bronze window frames set into the concrete skin respond to the proportions and architectural language of NoLita, and give the building an inviting human scale.
Above all, 75 Kenmare emphasises a life that is part of the neighbourhood rather than enclosed in privatised amenities. The entry to the building gives generously to passers-by with an ample canopy extending above and a planted vertical garden wall that brings nature onto the street. A detailed vitrine-like lobby is fronted with a wall of glass. Around the corner, a landscaped second-floor garden terrace cascades to the park below to offer a lush continuity with the public spaces of the neighbourhood. The apartments inside are laid out in an open loft – a living style that originated in the area during the early 1960s. Additional resident facilities include a planted rooftop garden and a gym.
75 Kenmare is indicative of AKA’s commitment to crafting architecture that is both generous to its surroundings and inseparable from its context. For Andre Kikoski, buildings must be timeless and new, engage the senses, delight the eye and lift the spirit of all. Above all else, they must have a sense of place and build a strong sense of community. At a crossroads for the city and nature and culture, 75 Kenmare gives back to the neighbourhood. It is an instant landmark and a love letter to the city.