The design for this mixed-use headquarters for an ecumenical advocacy organization establishes a dynamic tension between the explicit application of nautical forms and materials, a rigorous, abstract design sensibility and the preservation of historic fabric.
This was a rare opportunity to express the institute’s imagery in a modern vocabulary within the context of Manhattan’s oldest commercial district.
Founded in 1834 by the Episcopal Church, Seamen’s Church Institute provides for the personal and professional well-being of merchant mariners. The design affirms the nautical sensibility of the client and the South Street Seaport Historic District, completes the street wall and anchors the block.
The new building incorporates the restored façade of an eighteenth-century mercantile structure and extends its proportional system and materials across the first four floors. The six-story structure, which houses the administrative, educational, legal and spiritual functions of the non-profit organization, is organized in plan and section to reflect programmatic and institutional synergies.
Metaphorically, the new building’s sectional parti can be compared to a steel ship moored at a brick pier. The new brick façade, which continues the plane of the chandlery’s street wall, acts as a landlocked foil to the dynamism of the two-story, shiplike setback that emerges above, its white enamel panels acting as a modernizing force in the design.
Throughout the building, the institute’s commitment to seafarers and seafaring is reinforced by custom-design furnishings and fittings as well as materials and a color palette that allude to shipboard life.
New York, NY
Offices, Galleries for the Extensive Collection of Nautical Artifacts, Navigation Training Facility, Activity Spaces, Meeting Rooms, Legal Services, Ecumenical Chapel