First of August Boutique
project name : First of August Shop
location : Lexington Avenue, New York City
year of design: 1976
client: Ira Kent
architect: George Ranalli
associates: Robert Silman Structural Engineer
design team: Michael Monsky
photographer: George Cserna
First of August Shop is a one of a kind environmental fit for a chic New York City district and stylish offerings. An early attempt at tailoring a retail shop towards a lifestyle theme, (think Urban Outfitters), this project with its fresh geometric façade and second floor renovation interacts with the old brownstone, existing first floor, and neighboring buildings. Calling upon recollections of small pane shops with fronts that are more dense than transparent, inspired the dimension and scale of a new façade, and provides a necessary association with other city shops.
A forward extension of the shop into a zone of allowable space is accomplished by enveloping the outside wall of the old brownstone with a glass and steel lattice façade. By doing so, the interior of the building expands. Now there is room for an agreeable entryway for upper-floor residents, and suitable circulation between the first and second floors. At the top, notches in the new façade, made by inclining segments of the outer wall, define the depth of spatial connection between the old and new parts of the building.
Structurally, a tee-section frames the new façade. The tee is simply reversed so that the stem protrudes outward. The thickened tee form makes the steel dominant, rather than the glass.
The new facade allows the shop owner maximum visibility for displaying a fine selection of women’s apparel on a prime retail shopping avenue, and color and light are woven into the design that produces an evening transformation. As daylight fades away, a play of reflections is particularly visible to the passerby. Once the transition from daylight to darkness is complete, the façade reveals the brilliant undercoat of the colorfully hued interior design. When viewed from the nocturnal street, the building resonates with the cityscape.
The design for the shop interior included display areas, private dressing rooms, and a beauty care salon. The project maximized the use of mirrors in key locations to provide an expansive sense of space, color, and light. From entryway, through storefront, and on into the salon, movement is choreographed by a combination of artificial and natural light.
Neither perforated solid, not transparent container, the façade is a lattice patterned solid; with transformational properties of sturdiness and transparency responsive to varying conditions of natural and artificial light.
The old brownstone is wrapped and unwrapped through the use of old and new elements, which share an awareness of each other. Three walls- a new façade, an old brownstone front, and an interior—capture maximum exposure to the street, reorganize circulation throughout the building, and reconfigure the second floor, synchronously, for a distinctively urban architecture.