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Upper East Side Townhouse

A reconstructed Landmarked Upper East Side townhouse.

The reinvention of a badly degraded, but significant 1879 Neo-Grec townhouse on Manhattan’s Upper East Side negotiates and balances the building’s history and context with a desire for a forward-looking, contemporary residence. This is accomplished largely through an exceptional attention to craft, augmented by digital methods for design, coordination, and a broadly collaborative approach.

Conceived as both a family home and a setting for large-scale entertaining and events, the house is organized around multi-directional and multi-level circulation. Opportunities for light, air, and circulation to enliven the interior and exterior on the highly constrained site were developed through generous vertical openings and glazed double height spaces that emphasize the building’s grand proportions and create visual and spatial connections between floors.

The machine-produced decoration and crisp, incised ornamental surfaces that are characteristic of the Neo-Grec style were projected forward to a contemporary context, informing current and forward-looking processes of making like computer controlled milling and other contemporary manufacturing methods.

Throughout the house, works of design by emerging and independent American designers and studios is integrated with significant works of modernist design from Italy, Scandinavia, and the United States. Much of the contemporary furniture was custom designed for the house primarily through designer commissions, including a number of custom pieces by MKCA.  

High-precision digital and hand craft are a predominant feature throughout the house. A delicately carved wood ceiling in the entry vestibule takes cues from the carved egg and dart moldings of the original facade, scaled and shaped into billowing and converging surfaces. A braided railing of bronze, steel, and walnut is integrated into faceted white oak and travertine stair treads. A luminous formed white oak and glass screen separates private dressing space from the main stair on the master bedroom level.

“A mind-bogglingly beautifully detailed, creative, and clear project”

Residential Architect Awards

Numerous plantings and exterior spaces were also incorporated into the design of the building and developed in collaboration with Local Office Landscape Architecture and conservation botanists at SUNY. An entirely glazed rooftop addition opens onto a terrace with clifftop trees and grasses. A primordial palette of indigenous woodland grasses, ferns, and mosses creep up the rear stairs from the garden below, and a vertical garden, also fully integrated into the building as part of the terra cotta rear facade is host to a series of rare plant species from the Hudson Valley, some of which are endangered due to climate change. The facade is comprised of custom formed and glazed terra cotta elements with an undulating texture. MKCA worked with the manufacturer to develop a production method for the terra cotta that is at once fully bespoke and artisanal in its nature but efficiently manufactured and installed.


Project Team
Michael Chen
Alan Tansey
Justin Snider
Braden Caldwell
Natasha Harper
Robinson Strong
Elena Hasbun
Michelle Frantelizzi
Julian Anderson

General Contractor
IA Construction Management

Engineering Consultants
Buro Happold

Landscape Architects
Local Office Landscape Architecture

Preservation Consultants
Prudon and Partners

Lighting Design
Brian Orter Lighting Design