Oct. 4, by Nathaly Pesantez
The landmark Domino Sugar Refinery site in Williamsburg has yet another look in the works, as developers scrapped a former design for the site and introduced one that brings more light into the massive complex and a re-imagined public space in it.
Vishaan Chakrabarti, founder of the Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, the firm brought on for a revamp to the refinery’s design, presented newly wrought renderings and blueprints for the site on Kent Ave. between S 2nd and 3rd Streets to Brooklyn Community Board 1’s Land Use meeting on Oct. 3.
David Lombino, managing director for the developers behind the site, Two Trees Management explained that they approached PAU to ask for an improved design that would ultimately bring more light to the 400,000 square-foot space. “He brought back a vision that really captivated us,” Lombino said of Chakrabarti’s design.
The former plan for the site, created by Beyer Blinder Bell and approved by the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2014, were not ideal office-space leasing because of the would-be dimly lit interior due to the site’s small windows.
“It will allow us to continue with our plans to bring jobs back to the Refinery building and allow for greater public access” Lombino said about the new design at the meeting.
Chakrabarti’s design throws away prior plans to build wall-to-wall floors that didn’t line up with the refinery’s windows, and instead will see a glass-like contained office space seemingly floating inside the structure, or a “building within a building”.
The office space would be separated by the actual walls of the structure by a distance of about 10 to 12 feet, with the gap in between exposed to the outside and accessible to people in the space through balconies.
With the gap running all through the height of the building, light would blast through the entire glass-office space and avoid problems trying to align floors to unleveled windows and compromising light in the process. Photon analysis conducted at the site even proved that his design brings more light, according to Chakrabarti.
The new design also tops off the site with two clear domes atop the brick complex, which Chakrabarti says is a “calm” alternative to the clear blocks proposed in the prior design. The domes, split in the middle by a courtyard, also align with the arched style incorporated into the building when it was constructed in the late 1800s.
“We really believe this creates a harmonious relationship with the building in terms of old and new,” Chakrabarti said.
The ground level of the Domino Sugar Refinery would hold a t-shaped courtyard open to the public from Kent Avenue straight across to the waterfront. The space would have ADA-accessible public restrooms, a food hall, and possible retail space. The windows closest to ground level would be brought down and open up to create open doorways for the public to walk through.
The plan, which will be brought once again to the Landmarks Preservation Commission later this month, was approved by the CB1’s Land Use Committee last night. The committee did ask PAU, however, to keep in mind a small concern brought forth during the meeting about the facade as seen from the east—that the clear domes blocked out the Refinery’s chimney and changed the look of the building for residents on the Brooklyn side.
The landmark site was acquired by Two Trees in 2012, and is part of master plan designed by SHoP Architects and approved by the city in 2014 that is slated to bring affordable housing, retail, community facilities, and a public space on the Williamsburg waterfront site totaling 3,300,000 square-feet. The refinery site is set to lease its space to either one company or multiple tech companies. In June, a 6.5 acre park will open around the site, managed by Two Trees.
The Domino Sugar Refinery Site is a cluster site made up of three brick buildings completed in 1884.The company was considered to be the largest sugar manufacturer in the world at the time. The refinery closed in 2004 as the company moved to Yonkers, and was acquired by CPC Resources. The site became a landmark in 2007.