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Seamen’s Church Institute New York City

SCI: AIANY Center for Architecture Exhibition design by ennead architects

Oct 27, 2009

Polshek Partnership Architects’ Seamen’s Church Institute featured in ContextContrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009, on view at the AIANY Center for Architecture.

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Seamen’s Church Institute New York Seaport
image © Jeff Goldberg/ESTO

Seamen’s Church Institute

NEW YORK CITY, October 27, 2009 – Polshek Partnership Architects (now ennead architects), a firm recognized for work committed to both historic preservation and architectural innovation, is represented in ContextContrast: New Architecture in Historic Districts, 1967-2009 with its Seamen’s Church Institute. This exhibition, now on view at the AIANY Center for Architecture, explores the role and realization of new architecture in New York City’s historic districts.

In 1988, The Seamen’s Church Institute, an ecumenical organization founded in 1834 to provide for the well-being of merchant mariners, purchased a site on the northern edge of New York City’s South Street Seaport Historic District. This midblock parcel at 243-247 Water Street presented significant design challenges. Recognized for its familiarity with the site and experience with the regulatory, architectural, and technical challenges of modern interventions in historic precincts, Polshek Partnership Architects was considered an ideal firm to undertake the project.

For Polshek Partnership, the appeal of the Seamen’s Church Institute lay in the challenging opportunity to express the institute’s imagery in a modern vocabulary while maintaining the historical and architectural integrity of Manhattan’s oldest commercial district. Occupying the north end of the site was the Schermerhorn Ship Chandlery, a late eighteenth-century mercantile building, whose the brick facade included a quoined service entrance that held an iconic status among preservationists as it was one of the few remaining examples of the original building patterns of New Amsterdam. Retaining the historic structure and respecting its proportions and materials in the new building were primary considerations for obtaining approval from the Landmarks preservation Commission.

Polshek Partnership’s design successfully resolves seemingly conflicting mandates; it reinforces the historic character of the South Street Seaport Historic District and creates an iconographic, powerful, and future-directed architectural identity for the advocacy organization. The nautical charge of the institute’s mission and its historic association with the Seaport created a convergence of client and site that provided the conceptual basis for the design solution: the building preserves eighteenth century building patterns and establishes a dynamic tension between the explicit, often playful application of nautical forms and materials and a rigorous, abstract design sensibility.

Exhibition on View
ContextContrast will be on view until January 23, 2010, at The Center for Architecture, located at 536 LaGuardia Place. The exhibition is organized by the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter, the NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the Center for Architecture Foundation, in partnership with the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation.

Seamen’s Church Institute New York image / information from Polshek Partnership Architects 271009

Ennead Architects


Location: 536 LaGuardia Place, New York City, USA

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Polshek Partnership Architects

Known for powerful building designs for cultural, educational, scientific and not-for-profit institutions, Polshek Partnership Architects is a 150-person firm based in New York City. Projects have been published internationally and recognized with numerous awards for design excellence and for their important contributions to the life of their cities and campus precincts. The firm’s research-based design process sponsors the creation of signature building designs that are expressive of an institution’s philosophy and vision and address each project’s unique programmatic, technical, aesthetic and environmental issues.

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