An Inventive Project by Morris Adjmi Rises on a Site of Tragedy

45 E. 7th Street replaces three buildings destroyed by a terrible gas explosion while building on the architectural legacy of Manhattan’s East Village.

When Nexus Building Development Group approached architect Morris Adjmi about designing a new luxury condominium on the very site in New York’s East Village where a devasting gas explosion destroyed three buildings, injured more than 10 people, and claimed two lives in 2015, Adjmi had reservations about taking on the project. “I wanted to make sure that we would be able to memorialize the people who died,” he says.

Adjmi committed when Nexus assured him that it intended to honor the victims, memorializing them in whatever way the architect felt was best. That memorial now stands as a two-and-a-half by three-foot plaque on the building’s east side, emblazoned with the names of those who died—Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Ismael Locón Yac—as well as a note for others who suffered. 

This dedication serves as a reminder of the tragedy that left many physically and emotionally wounded and as an expression of gratitude for the community that came together with open arms and gracious hearts, reads a portion of the text. The city has also dedicated street signs on the corner of East 7th Street and 2nd Avenue to the victims.  

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The building's geometric brickwork alternates as it rises. Its steel-edged base and bracketed cornice reference traditional neighborhood typologies.
The building’s geometric brickwork alternates as it rises. The steel-edged base and bracketed cornice reference traditional neighborhood typologies.

The boutique residential building, known as 45 East 7th, opened this summer and is a 34,000 square foot, seven story structure with 21 residences, a 1,200 square foot landscaped rooftop, and a gym. The East Village Coalition, a local community group, had called unsuccessfully for the building to be 100 percent affordable, with priority given to those who lost their homes in the explosion. (There are currently no affordable units in the building.)

I extracted patterns from other buildings in the area but applied them in a modern way.”

Morris Adjmi

Since the building is located in a landmarked New York City district, Adjmi wanted the design to also pay homage to the neighborhood’s rich history. “As with any building I create, my intention was to make it fit into the context of the location, but stand out with its design details,” he says. “I extracted patterns from other buildings in the area but applied them in a modern way.”

In a nod to the area’s trademark brickwork and classical detailing, Adjmi gave each layer of the exterior a unique masonry treatment. The base consists of a series of bricks set out from the façade, creating a horizontal ribbon. Custom L-shaped bricks give the middle layer an eye-catching checkboard motif with a contemporary bent. “Other buildings use this checkboard pattern sparingly, but we took it to the maximum,” explains Adjmi. The top portion or frieze presents a double corbel, where indented and extended bricks create an undulating effect. The property’s cornice is punctuated with deep brackets, while cast stone frames around the façade’s windows give them a distinct depth. At the base, windows are framed in metal, reflecting the area’s storefronts.  

  

Interior view of a living room with views out to the city.
Oversized windows and minimal interior treatments focus expansive views onto the East Village location.

Inside, the lobby is minimal and light-filled, with large format stone tiled floors and white Italian plaster walls. Units, which range from studios to three bedrooms, have oversized windows and open layouts, where kitchens, living, and dining rooms combine into a great room. Some residences have individual terraces, and each floor has its own terrace for residents to share. “Outdoor space became a big deal during the pandemic, and we wanted to offer that as an amenity to everyone who lives here,” says Adjmi. 

Adjmi says that he strove to create a property that’s unique in numerous ways, from the materials used to the organization of the interiors. “Given the history of the East Village and the backstory of the site, specialness was vital, but so was warmth,” says Adjmi. “There had to be a sense of home.”

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