Henson Architecture

Henson Architecture

New York, NY


Hunter’s Point Historic Townhouse Retrofit

The Hunters Point historic district in Long Island City contains a small cluster of townhouses originally built in the late 19th century. The area has gone through several economic cycles, and many of these homes were converted along the way to two- and three-family residences. The owner of one of these townhouses contacted architect Scott Henson to renovate their Greek revival-style brick building, resurrecting its single-family status while adding square footage to the rear and setting Passive House as an overall project goal. Henson’s firm specializes in historic preservation.

The house was divided into three apartments leaving a limited amount of original features. Therefore, this gut renovation shall find a balance between old and new, restoring it back to a single occupancy home and salvaging as many historic details as possible. As rooms will be opened up to allow daylight to reach further into the interior, Henson and his team will be researching and replicating some of that missing detailing, including decorative trims and bases, ceiling medallions and architectural detailing on doors, windows and stairs.

The front façade will be restored, with triple-pane simulated double-hung windows replacing the current vinyl-clad units. There are no Passive House-quality entrance doors that resemble the original, so the airtightness layer will wrap around the inner vestibule door, allowing a replica of the exterior door to grace the front.

Because the back of the building is not subject to historic district restrictions, an artist’s studio will be added at the garden level. A lift-and-slide door will bring light into the south-facing studio, which will be partially shaded by an overhang to reduce summertime heat. A new bulkhead and terrace area on the roof will be set back so that they aren’t visible from the street. The side walls towards the back of the townhouse will be wrapped in an exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS) and a stucco finish. Meanwhile, the rear-facing garden, parlor, and bulkhead level facades will feature a rain screen underneath the shou sugi ban siding. On the second story the original brick wall with its bluestone sills and lintel will be preserved.

“Our work in preservation is the most sustainable thing you can do with an old building,” says Henson, “and adding Passive House certification to the project goals can only increase the value of the building.” He is looking forward to bringing the Passive House approach to much more of his firm’s historic preservation work, from townhouses to skyscrapers.

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Status: Under Construction
Location: Long Island City, NY, US
Firm Role: Architect