2. October 2017
Photo: Frank Oudeman

The brick exterior walls wrapping A/D/O, the new creative space opened by MINI, look much like the other graffiti-covered warehouses in this industrial stretch of Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But a triangular "porch" at one corner make it clear that something different is going on inside. The glass storefront invites people to go inside, where some surprises await. nARCHITECTS answered a few questions about their design of A/D/O, named for MINI's Amalgamated Drawing Office.

Project: A/D/O, 2016
Location: Brooklyn, New York, USA
Client: BMW/MINI
ArchitectnARCHITECTS, Brooklyn
Design Principals: Eric Bunge (Principal‐in‐Charge), Mimi Hoang (Principal)
Project Architect: Ammr Vandal 
Project Manager: Amanda Morgan
Project Team: Thomas Heltzel, David Mora, Kyong Kim, Daniel Katebini‐Stengel, Gabrielle Marcoux, Jin Jin Chiu, Georgia Williams, Zach Walters, Brian Chen, Liwei Wang, Geraldine Vargas, Grisha Enikolopov
Structural Engineer: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
MEP/FP Engineer: OLA Consulting Engineers
Civil Engineer: AKRF
Lighting Designer: Lumen Architecture, PLLC
Interior Designer: nARCHITECTS (additional interior design by HUXHUX)
Contractor: Barrett Builders
Code Consultant: Jack Callahan Consulting
Kitchen Consultant: Jacobs Doland Beer

Photo courtesy of A/D/O

Please provide an overview of the project.
A/D/O is a design space in Greenpoint, Brooklyn that provides a groundbreaking new platform for designers to collaborate and foster a broader conversation across and beyond disciplines. Occupying a former warehouse, the new space is open to the public, combining spaces for events and exhibitions, design education, free communal workspace, a fabrication lab, a design shop and the new restaurant Norman, which runs on sustainable relationships with local suppliers and farmers. The building also houses URBAN-X, an accelerator founded by MINI and SOSV, which supports startups working to improve urban life.

Photo: Frank Oudeman

What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
Programmatically, A/D/O is about bringing together typically separate entities in an exchange of ideas and resources. We took a similar approach in transforming the existing 23,000sf warehouse to accommodate these new connections – an approach we call "remixing." Rather than simply dividing up the existing space by use or, contrarily, creating a continuous and undifferentiated space, we chose to create variable connections between gastro, event, design, exhibition and retail spaces. Neither rooms nor an open hall, the spaces blend into each other, allowing curious visitors to see what happens behind closed doors.

Photo: Frank Oudeman

How does the design respond to the unique qualities of the site?
Working within a former warehouse, the transformation of the building involved strategic surgical interventions that highlight and contrast the largely retained existing structure. By removing a triangular section at the corner of the building and inserting full height glazing, a main entry "porch" invites in passersby and offers wide views down Wythe Avenue from within. While this intervention is clearly new, the building’s modified outline was rebuilt using the original graffiti-covered bricks, resulting in what we now refer to as "reconstituted graffiti." This approach also frames the many new apertures introduced into the existing façade. Not only did this technique divert thousands of bricks from landfills; it also celebrates the creative and industrious character of Greenpoint.

Brick "Remixing" (Photos: nARCHITECTS)

How did the project change between the initial design stage and the completion of
the building?

The design of the project happened alongside the development of the identity and programmatic concept for this new design institution. A/D/O is a prototype for a new kind of design space for our client, and as such, did not begin with a typical design brief. Many of the design elements and concepts therefore emerged fluidly and iteratively, in some cases helping to establish the project’s identity and character. One important element – the Periscope – emerged from the client’s desire to create a roof deck with a view towards Manhattan. When zoning, budgetary and accessibility constraints made this unfeasible, we decided to bring the view into the building instead. Our persicope unites reflected views of Brooklyn and Manhattan into a single skyline, extending our concept of remixing to the urban scale, and providing an ever changing focal point for the interior. 

Periscope (Photo: Matthew Carbone)
Periscope (Photo: Frank Oudeman)

Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or

The project is inscribed within an emerging approach to adaptive reuse that celebrates existing features without sentimentality. We avoided tropes that attempt to convey industrial character – such as rusty steel and Edison bulbs – while favoring instead a straightforward approach to existing conditions. Within this framework, we remixed graffiti-covered brick, left exposed patches where we trenched concrete floors for electrical and plumbing and exposed reinforcing for the façade around new openings. Conversely, new inserted elements generate contrast through their refinement – the shimmering and kaleidoscopic Periscope, a white tile volume behind the restaurant’s bar, and the long marble counterbar.

Email interview conducted by John Hill. 

Cutaway Model (Photo: nARCHITECTS)
Public Space (Photo: Matthew Carbone)
Looking from public space to Norman restaurant (Photo: Frank Oudeman)
Looking from Norman restaurant toward Periscope (Photo: Frank Oudeman)
Norman restaurant and view down Wythe Avenue (Photo: Frank Oudeman)
Axonometric showing the Periscope's views of Brooklyn and Manhattan (Drawing: nARCHITECTS)
Floor Plan (Drawing: nARCHITECTS)

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