Welcome to The Hot Seat, in which we talk to folks who work in Brooklyn real estate, development, architecture, and the like. Introducing Julie Torres Moskovitz, founder of Fabrica 718, an environmentally conscious, Williamsburg-based design firm.
Brownstoner: What neighborhood do you currently live in, and how’d you end up there?
Julie Torres Moskovitz: I live in Williamsburg and moved here when I finished architecture school in 2000. I have enjoyed watching Williamsburg transform. However, I am disturbed by the proliferation of ugly residential developments that replaced the well-proportioned factory buildings. [Still,] I love the personal relationships we have developed over the years with the storeowners and neighbors. Store owners see my big son and say they remember when I was pregnant—and that was seven years ago! It is great to have that small neighborhood feel within the huge city.
BS: Can you talk about your beginnings in architecture?
JTM: I wanted to be an architect when I was very young but I took a circuitous route by studying French and African Studies first in undergraduate. To test the waters with architecture, I worked in marketing for an architecture firm first. After graduate school, I spent over four years at Gluckman Mayner Architects working on museums, galleries, and retail spaces.
BS: You’ve worked on residential projects in Brooklyn but have also gotten attention for your commercial design at Veronica’s People’s Club. How do you approach residential and commercial projects differently?
JTM: I am glad that you heard about VPC. That project represented my third time working with the client and the contractor—so the collaboration was second nature. I approach both residential and commercial projects in a similar fashion. I listen first and the ideas evolve through sketching, research, and collaboration.
BS: Can you talk about your current projects in Brooklyn? Is there one that’s particularly exciting to you?
JTM: We are working on a Passive House retrofit under construction now. I am super excited about this project but I would prefer to talk about it after we are further along.
Click to enlarge! Passive House Schematic for Park Slope retrofit. Fabrica718 team includes Julie Torres Moskovitz (principal), Minyoung Song, Kim Letven, Natalya Egon, Michael Vanreusel, Corey Yurkovich, and PH Consultant Jordan Goldman.
I also recently finished a collaborative project with students and faculty called the Living Lab at Pratt Institute. It is a retrofit green dormitory unit that has been monitored all year. And finally, a project that I dedicated lots of time to is a community-based sustainable design for the East River State Park in Williamsburg. We were one of three winning teams that subsequently collaborated on a master plan for the park. The project won a 2010 NY American Society of Landscape Architects merit award but was not built. It was a fascinating design process to be involved with because it was a community, bottom-up approach to design rather than having the State Park tell us what our community needs are.
Pratt Living Lab. Collaboration with Robert Langhorn, Julie Torres Moskovitz, Corey Yurkovich and Interior & Industrial Design Students at Pratt Institute. Photo by Sean Hemmerle.
East River State Park Sustainable Master Plan. Collaboration with Alison Duncan, Sarah Ludington, Petra Mager, Gareth Mahon, Stephanie Saulmon, and Julie Torres Moskovitz.
BS: You work specifically with “green design.” Do you see a possibility for green design to eventually become the norm and not the exception?
JTM: I think the term “green” design will just disappear and we must adhere to green design principles and leaving something worthy for future generations. In other words, the “norm” now should be outlawed and ostracized. Everyone, from large facilities to individual homeowners, wants to save money on their utility bills and on filling up their gas tank. We need to plan for smart retrofits and efficient new buildings. We need amazing and efficient mass transit. The car industry needs to build efficient and smart cars. No more of this greedy planned obsolescence. The Passive House movement, Ed Mazria’s 2030 Challenge, LEED, and others are guiding the way. I just read the mandated NY State Energy Conservation Code and it’s a pretty good guideline too. Just watch out for the rampant greenwashing out there.
BS: Where do you see the future of green design specifically for Brooklyn?
JTM: For Brooklyn’s future, it would be nice to have our own version of the High Line over here; a wild elevated forest that could double as a link between different neighborhoods. Why does it have to be so difficult to get across Brooklyn? Also, as the Brooklyn Waterfront and Gowanus Canal develop–these places must stay real and unique. I don’t want to ever welcome the generic chain store boxes here–at that point you might as well be in Anywhere, USA.
BS: And, finally, your favorites: What’s your top Brooklyn neighborhood; fave new development; and property on the market?
JTM: My favorite neighborhood is Fort Greene. I like to walk around and discover new things there with its shaded streets, beautiful homes, and rich history. My favorite new development in Brooklyn is the new Brooklyn Bridge Park. I don’t have a favorite building development but I do admit that the basketball stadium is looking pretty exciting these days.