How One Architect Preserves Architectural Norms in The City

Feb 6 • Architects, International • 1231 Views • 62 Comments on How One Architect Preserves Architectural Norms in The City

Rules of a Science – Framed to Innovate

Architect Hany Rizkalla, formerly of Moriyama & Teshima Architects and Adamson Associates,  says his time in Canada taught him how to run an efficient office and work with advanced construction techniques. Now this New York-based architect is looking to renovate that city’s brownstones.


By  Yuha Scarselli…


Most architecture projects are context driven with some existing elements preserved, while also introducing new additional features. Domineering almost as a rule of thumb to this science, the ideology is respectfully considered in the 320 West 113th Street project in New York City.


The project is a “typical low rise residential retrofit,” designed by Hany Rizkalla. The three tiered building project comes, says the architect, as one responsive to the “high demand to expand and renovate the brownstones of New York City.” The demand is largely driven by the rapid increase in real estate values in the city.


The location of the building consists of a street façade & a backyard façade. Due to the significance of context, the street façade “preserves the characteristic street elevation, thus maintaining the prevailing urban fabric.” While preserving the primal elements of the façade, the openings are designed to be touched-up on. Enlarged openings allow sunlight to gush into the rather deep block. The windows add to the architectural feature of the façade, while bringing about characteristic recognition to the building itself. The functionality factor is also made prominent by exaggerating the scale of the openings.


On the other hand, the façade towards the backyard is developed as a complete redesign. Along with the role play of solid and void, balconies are designed to give lightness to the façade. Adding to the vitality of low rise buildings as these, are the balconies – an introduction which conveys openness and a new dimension. The balconies act as chief elements to the building, imparting character to the residential units, while making them more pronounced. These also ensure individuality to the residential units, while making them “easily read from the outside,” according to Rizkalla.


Architecture as a science prescribes norms of approach to design; while the same science allows the architect to challenge these norms and innovate. Rizkalla enabled one such challenge on the forces of design for the Banque Misr project in Cairo. Carried out as a schematic project at the onset of his career, the ideology was to challenge verticality. “The main theme of the project suggested introduction and innovation of a structural form,” he says. “ (It) served the project program and guided spatial requirements.”

The exterior concrete framework acted as “the main skeleton of the building.” The floor slabs were suspended off of the framework, thus enabling “column-free interiors.”

“The concrete framework itself embraced the floating slabs,” highlights Rizkalla  – contrary to being a means of restraint – by sufficiently letting the interior realm of the building to breath, float and fly. The framework appears to orbit around the core of the building, balancing it, instead of pinning it to the ground.


Another aspect of architecture, urban developments, as is happening right now in Brooklyn, is noted by Rizkalla. With projects in Manhattan, Bronx and Brooklyn, he points out that the developmental implications of downtown Brooklyn seem “directed towards a driver scale city, rather than one for pedestrians.” Manhattan, on the other hand, despite its vast scale of buildings, preserves the urban fabric, making it pedestrian friendly.


Architecture as a science guides rules of thumbs and modes of innovation, all the same time. It is at the discretion of the architect to carry the rules through to innovations.

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