Unexpected New Plan for Domino Brings in Light With Glass Box Nestled in Landmarked “Ruin”

Rendering via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism


Already one of Brooklyn’s most interesting developments, the Domino Sugar Refinery is going in a surprising new direction.

Unable to find a tenant for the landmarked 1882 Domino Sugar Refinery building at the heart of its long-in-the-making Williamsburg waterfront mega-project, developer Two Trees has scrapped Beyer Blinder Belle’s Landmarks-approved design.

Vishaan Chakrabarti’s Practice for Architecture and Urbanism will take over, with a new design. The news was first reported by New York Magazine.

brooklyn development domino sugar 325 kent avenue

The previous design. Rendering by Beyer Blinder Belle via Two Trees Management

In renderings of Beyer Blinder Belle’s design, the new interior was built into the existing structure. But contrary to appearances, this did not solve some of the former factory’s problems with light.

Reportedly, Two Trees Management had trouble “trying to woo companies into a space that remained awkward and dark,” among structural issues such as misaligned windows and a facade partly held up by factory equipment.

brooklyn development domino sugar williamsburg

New glass walls won’t touch the historic factory walls. Rendering by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

According to the new renderings by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism, the aesthetic ideas have remained the same. But there have been subtle, if substantial, tweaks: The shape of the glass top is now barrel-vaulted instead of rectangular (echoing the building’s original American Round Arch Style) and it crowns a new glass building that sits inside and does not touch the historic factory walls.

Rendering by PAU

Big windows on the south facade let in light. Rendering by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Similar concepts were approved for Empire Stores and the formerly roofless St. Ann’s Warehouse, both in Dumbo.

Two potential points of controversy: It’s unclear how the refinery’s exposed walls would be stabilized and protected from destruction by the elements. The new design also proposes to add three large and decidedly modern windows to the south-facing wall.

Rendering by PAU

Rendering by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Beyer Blinder Belle is known for preservation. PAU founder Vishaan Chakrabarti is an urbanist who previously worked on the Domino master plan when he was at SHoP; the three-year-old practice won an award for its proposal for Penn Station.

Drawing by PAU

A drawing shows the space between the old and new walls, and the location of mechanicals on the roof. Drawing by Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

Because the factory is landmarked, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will need to sign off on any changes before the project moves forward. They will consider the new proposal later this month, according to Curbed.

brooklyn development domino sugar williamsburg

The site in 2014. Photo by Cate Corcoran

Few developers would jettison an already LPC-approved design, but Two Trees also discarded a previous developer’s plan that had already gone through the difficult public approval process known as ULURP. Other surprises included hosting a site-specific Kara Walker installation, ‘A Subtlety, or the Marvelous Sugar Baby,’ in the cleaned-out factory in 2014.

The tk in 1876. Image via NYPL via PAU

Havemeyers & Elder Sugar Refinery in 1876. Image via New York Public Library via Practice for Architecture and Urbanism

[Source: New York Magazine]

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