July 9, 2020
Worrell Yeung Transforms a Former Factory into a Hub for a New Generation of Makers
The renovation, located near the Brooklyn Navy Yard, elevates the building’s rugged historical charm while making it suitable for a 21st-century workforce.
At a century-old building in New York, a subtle transformation has unfolded courtesy of architects Worrell Yeung. With Newlab, a business and technology incubator as the primary tenant, the local firm converted the masonry structure at 77 Washington, once a military-equipment factory, into a makerspace for fledgling manufacturers.
The building occupies a site just south of the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which formerly produced warships but is today a tech and fabrication hub. Redbrick factories, warehouses, and garages line these streets, separating the Navy Yard from the brownstone residences of Clinton Hill to the south.
“We were creating a facility to accommodate businesses that were looking to grow out of the Navy Yard but needed space to develop further,” says Max Worrell, who founded the firm with Jejon Yeung in 2014. The pair sought a design that would elevate the building’s history while making it relevant for a 21st-century workforce.
“There’s so much richness and texture from the patina and years of manufacturing in this building. We wanted to preserve that character and juxtapose it with newer materials that are detailed in a modern, clean way,” adds Yeung, referring to the plywood and glass blocks in the entryway, as well as diamond plate and unfinished-steel details that the pair added throughout.
Though it’s a reuse project, 77 Washington isn’t preserved in amber: The architects persuaded the building’s owner to let them tear down an adjacent garage and use the space as a garden and outdoor seating area. With landscaping by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, the result is a green oasis in the middle of an industrial center. A bike storage facility at the back of the garden is made of glass block, so it glows at night. “It really helped elevate the project,” says Worrell.
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