“We’re always interested in the intersection between old-fashioned hand craft, and modern machined factory production.”
Located in the Soho Cast Iron Historic district, XOCO325 (pronounced sho/co) is a 9-story, 24-unit condo development. Named after the Catalan word for chocolate, the project involves the renovation of a former Tootsie chocolate factory, and a new structure cloaked in a custom cast aluminum screen. The condos range in size from just over 1,000 sq. ft. to nearly 5,000 sq. ft. and are connected by a central courtyard.
The design, development, and construction of the project has all been coordinated by New York-based office DDG who specializes in inclusive project delivery. Peter Guthrie, Chief Creative Officer and Head of Design & Construction of DDG, says from very early on, this “one-stop-shop” approach to development was rooted in the idea of embracing unique material qualities in construction. “At 41 Bond Street – one of our first projects – we were hand carving bluestone pieces on site. One of the ideas we had early on was that by doing this ourselves in house, and controlling everything throughout the process, we could bring back an element of craft that other companies couldn’t afford to do.”
The most prominent feature of XOCO325 is a custom cast aluminum screen, carefully developed through an extensive survey of the cast iron district, where roughly 250 cast iron buildings reside. Through this study, the project team began to understand the cast iron facade as an industrialized “kit of parts” approach to architecture where design and construction rely heavily on series of componentry made available through pattern books. Inspiration also came from contemporary catalogs such as McMaster-Carr’s online website, which Guthrie labels as a “bible of industrial parts.” The catalog includes everything from bolts and screws to street lamp posts and furniture.
DDG adopted this attitude of mass-produced componentry in their digitally developed forms, arriving at a proportioning system and bay spacing reminiscent of historical buildings in the area. “We’re always interested in the intersection between old-fashioned hand craft, and modern machined factory production,” says Guthrie. “There was an angle here we wanted to explore. Aluminum was light and, in the end, more affordable than replicating cast iron.” The project team developed a repetitive spandrel and column shape, working with a foundry to develop reusable composite forms with a weathered burlap texture. When prototyping versions of the system, the project team prioritized formal adjustments to the massing such as curvature and shadow lines to emphasize a sense of depth found on facades of historic buildings in the district.
By “delaminating” the building enclosure system from the cast aluminum screen, a two-foot gap was established allowing the residential units to have a full span curtain wall glazing, while still maintaining some level of security and privacy. “That was our way of getting both: making a modern building without compromising on psychological stability and privacy.” This configuration is celebrated by the project team as having a “robust stability.” Within this space, balconies occupy the courtyard facing units, while a custom planter system comprised of pockets cast into the screen and a series of cables, is incorporated onto the primary street facade.
The project is beginning sales, with an anticipated completion in 2016.