The slanted, corrugated townhouse at 2 Monitor Street, completed three years ago and built from 21 shipping containers, is now for sale. From the outside, it has an impressive street presence, standing out from the neighborhood as a curiosity without being terribly obtrusive or out of place. Yet it manifests an evident luxury in an out-of-the-way corner of Williamsburg between the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and Cooper Square Houses.
Designed by LOT-EK, the firm of New York-based Italian architects Ada Tolla and Giuseppe Lignano, who pioneered the reuse of the material for dwellings, the building totals 4,539 square feet on a 25-by-100-foot lot with a garage and five bedrooms spread over four stories. Three of the floors have terraces, and the main living area combines kitchen, dining, living and a media room.
From the photos, the aesthetic of the built-in interior elements resembles Dutch supermodernism, with the huge media room composed of tiers of long seats and gigantic yet precarious looking plush pillows. Presumably due to the difficulties of piecing together 21 shipping containers into a single dwelling, the rooms appear to be somewhat unevenly cut up and interrupted by structural columns.
The ceiling height, subtracting flooring, mechanicals and lighting, is likely less than the 8.5-foot standard height of shipping containers. According to previous reporting, most of the window slits are not operable, so the comfort of the home depends on insulation and an efficient heating and cooling system.
We don’t get a view of the kitchen or four bathrooms in the listing except a glimpse of an island from the dining room, but the fixtures and appliances described all are high-end brand names. There doesn’t appear to be a backyard, but there are two driveways — one in the front, one in the rear — and off-street parking on a rear driveway, in addition to the garage.
LOT-EK’s website relates the shipping containers to Brooklyn’s industrial past, and the street name Monitor is derived from a famous Civil War battleship fabricated along its piers. But let it be noted the birth of container terminals starting in the late 1950s outmoded the working waterfront and paved the way for its current upscaling, for better or worse.
Note it’s not the first shipping container townhouse in Brooklyn either. A contractor and an architect built one in 2011 at 351 Keap Street in Williamsburg.
LOT-EK also associates the building’s form with a sculptural nod to the rapidly changing neighborhood, by which we think they mean there are more artists in the area than before. That may or may not be the case, and we shall put aside the practical reality that few artists could ever, ever afford to live in or work in 2 Monitor, and simply take this to mean that the dwelling symbolizes the existence of artists.
It appears from public records that the lot once had a modest single family house on it with a backyard and a three-car garage at the corner. The sellers purchased it in 2010 for $699,000, and construction loans eventually totaling $1.44 million were taken out by 2012 to complete the project, public records show.
One of the arguments for the use of shipping containers has been that it’s a low-cost way of building, but that doesn’t affect the price of land — or what the market will bear. Note the taxes appear to be unusually high at $20,284 per year — a benefit to the public if not the buyers.
Jon Capobianco and Quinn Ferree of Compass have the listing, which is priced at $5.5 million. For such an unusual work of architecture, is it worth the price tag? Do you think they will get ask?
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