March 15, 2024

Close Reading / New Meaning – Case Study 1

Finding New Meaning and Inspiration from Surviving Building Fragments at 529 Broadway

Soon after the start of BKSK’s design work for 529 Broadway (Spring Street), which became the SoHo flagship Nike headquarters, we had an “Aha!” moment. Initial research about the site (occupied by a late 1930’s 2-story “taxpayer” revealed it had been home to a grand hotel, Prescott House, built in 1852).

We knew, as well, from 20th c. images, the flamboyant parapet had been altered to project further, perhaps as the hotel declined. We assumed everything had been demolished. Then we looked more closely at land use maps, at historic photos, and at the neighboring building on Spring.

Long story short … the original hotel was built in 2-phases – the first 100’ off Broadway, followed 20 years later by a 25’ extension. That last 25’, roughly identical in detail though built 20 years later, was now hiding in plain sight – a stand-alone survivor. The character of those 1850-style “punched” windows, compared with the 1870 neighbor’s cast-iron frame, offered an opportunity for interpretation. AHA!

We conceived a new building, to be clad in a terra cotta rain screen, with masonry unit dimensions evocative of the original brick, and decorative window surrounds distilled from the surviving cast iron lintels. Where the old meets new, the punched window proportions repeat, and then begin to change …

Gradually evolving, as a reflection of the architectural transformation that underlies the significance of SoHo’s Cast Iron Historic District, into a light-filled building with loft proportions, originally made possible by the use of structural ironwork.

Embedded in the concept, material choices and details on the thoroughly modern corner of Broadway and Spring Street is a complex narrative, and a commitment to achieving contextual appropriateness through ambitious and meaningful articulation rather than historical imitation.

529 Broadway
529 Broadway