Michael K. Chen Architecture

Michael K. Chen Architecture Diversity Badge

Asian/Pacific Islander, LGBTQIA+ owned

New York, NY


East Side Townhouse

A reconstructed Landmarked Upper East Side townhouse.

Originally built as a single family home in 1879, the landmarked Neo-Grec brownstone had since been divided into 17 apartments with a sagging and badly degraded structure. MKCA reconstructed the building, carefully inserting a new 9600 sf steel and concrete structure, expanding the building’s footprint, and creating opportunities for light, air, and circulation to enliven the interior and exterior. An elevator and sculptural new stairs were added, along with generous floor openings and glazed double height spaces that emphasize the building’s grand proportions and create visual and spatial connections between floors.

The interplay between technology and artistry is an organizing principle behind the design of the project, from architecture to interiors to landscape design. One of the richest challenges was to to bond the desire for a contemporary, forward looking residence to the history of the building and its context in a meaningful way. This is accomplished primarily through an exceptional attention to craft, augmented by digital methods for design, coordination, and collaboration. The machine-produced decoration and crisp, incised ornamental surfaces that are characteristic of the Neo-Grec style were projected forward to a contemporary context, informing current and forward-looking processes of making like computer controlled milling and other contemporary manufacturing methods.

Throughout the house, works of design by emerging and independent American designers and studios is integrated with significant works of modernist design from Italy, Scandinavia, and the United States. Much of the contemporary furniture was custom designed for the house primarily through designer commissions, including a number of custom pieces by MKCA.  MKCA is solely responsible for the project’s architecture as well its interior design.

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Status: Built
Location: New York, NY, US
Firm Role: Architect, Interior Designer
Additional Credits: Buro Happold, Local Office Landscape Architecture