© Tai Zhang
“The facade is almost alive, it’s always dynamic and changing.” – Luca Andrisani
“Aperture 538,” the name of Luca Andrisani Architect’s 10-unit, multi-family residence on Washington Avenue in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, says it all: Apertures, or perforations, are the main feature of Andrisani’s imaginative, airy and eco-friendly design, from the copper scrim wall that sheaths its facade to the black metal handrails lining the units’ balconies. Developed by Sam Boymelgreen LLC, and opened June 2015, the building is adjacent to many of the neighborhood’s iconic 19th century brownstones. “There are a lot of beautiful trees and brownstones on the street, and I was taken in by the beauty, and the beautiful, warm experience of walking on the street,” the Manhattan-based architect said.
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In copper, Andrisani found an ideal material to recreate this warmth: It can be easily cut and weathers beautifully, gradually altering from a metallic color to iridescent brown, black and eventually green.
“The facade is almost alive, it’s always dynamic and changing,” he added. Embedded in the facade screen is a series of shutters that cover the units’ windows; these are retractable via hinges, allowing light to pour in directly to the units’ rooms.
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The architects consulted with Axis Facades on performative details of the exterior screen, while Hi-Tech Metals Inc. manufactured the assembly. The custom pixelated patterning is derived from Grasshopper scripts, and offers both performative and decorative functions. While the perforations enabled Andrisani to meet local building code requirements for light and air, the patterning reveals a desire to respond to historic and cultural features of the scenic tree-lined street. Simple metal shutters often found on historic buildings throughout New York City provided a historical precedent for the operable copper screens, designed to offer protection from the elements.
The facade’s design—which won a 2016 North American Cooper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association—is inspired by something else archetypically Brooklyn: John A. Roebling’s 1883 landmark Brooklyn Bridge. Three diagonal lines flying out from the far right of the screen are meant to represent the bridge’s turrets, Andrisani said. The screen and balcony spaces offer a glimpse of the steel frame construction system while balancing the precision of digitally controlled perforations with a deliberately raw material palette.
Various balconies in the units, located in the building’s rear and along its side, contain black metal handrails, perforated like the facade’s screen. Dividers separating cabanas for each unit on the building’s roof—as yet unbuilt—will contain similar handrails.
The main volume of the building features a black galvalume panel cladding set in a clean stack bond pattern with reveal joints that register copper trimmed windows along the side elevations. The facade material extends to the interior lobby, providing streetside continuity, while the copper window trim extends to the interior of the units, showcases the depth of the exterior wall construction while offering a warm glow at window openings. Paired with operable copper shutters, the window detailing at Aperture538 appropriately reaffirms the name of the development.
© Tai Zhang