Occupying nearly a full block along 4th Avenue in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, INC Architecture & Design’s Saint Mark’s Place is lightened by its off-white terra-cotta facade. Clad in over 8,000 terra-cotta panels, the building houses 100 condominiums spanning 112,631 square feet and twelve floors, with ground floor retail. Common spaces include a library, fitness studio, sauna, full demonstration kitchen, two-tier courtyard, and a 2,794 landscaped rooftop.
After considering numerous brick and terra-cotta facade designs—in reference to the brownstone that characterizes much of the neighborhood’s side streets—a full terra-cotta facade was settled on for its “clarity and simplicity” in materiality, said INC’s Creative and Managing Director Adam Rolston. Rolston added that the slightly off-white color was important in lightening the “bulk” of the building, given its size.
INC shaped the facade design with parametric tools, limiting variations in terra-cotta shapes in order to streamline the custom molds. The panels were custom manufactured by Agrob Buchtal, whose U.S. representative, Cladding Concepts, completed most of the engineering and support systems for the panels. The choice of panels also eased the construction process, as they were secured to a “conventional concrete masonry unit back up assembly.” Once this step was complete, the building was fully enclosed and interior work could begin without waiting for the final installation of the entire facade system.
The building’s ‘bulk,’ at least from some angles, is moderated by its loggias. While windows on lower levels are sized typical to a townhouse, they increase in size arithmetically rising up the building, bringing in increased sunlight and expanding views from the upper floors. The design team desired loggias to provide outdoor spaces “to support the health and wellness of the occupants,” according to Rolston. The loggias also open up the building from the exterior as viewed moving down 4th Avenue. While the facade maintains a clean grid across the residential floors, the loggias add a geometric complexity that brings depth to the facade. Rolston described this transition as the building’s “unfolding,” remarking that it also came to influence the design for the interiors.
On the rooftop, which hosts private spaces for residents, reserves room for trees and other planting. Rolston hoped that residents would provide landscaping, with the terraces “taking on the character of the resident, much like a street full of nearly identical brownstones change over time to reflect those who live there.” The marquee above the ground floor retail space will be planted, though the design team faced challenges in plant selection. The marquee slopes down toward the facade, so plants with deeper roots are further from the street and vice versa. The vegetation will provide visual screening and noise reduction for first floor units along 4th Avenue. The courtyard was also extensively planted, with particular attention given to the courtyard’s structure in order to support trees.
INC’s design subtly introduces complex materials and facade systems to traditional brownstone architecture. Altogether, the choice of terra-cotta and inclusion of loggias—in addition to the setbacks on upper floors—adds intricacy to an otherwise simple building shape, shifting the perception across the facade.