DDG is a development, design, construction and property management firm that was founded in 2009 and burst onto the New York City scene when its inaugural project, 41 Bond, held its own architecturally with Herzog & de Meuron’s 40 Bond building across the street. Since then the firm has continued producing residential projects that push the envelope — in the case of XOCO 325 quite literally. Its cast-aluminum façade transforms a former chocolate factory in SoHo into something otherwordly. The team at DDG answered a few questions about the project.
What were the circumstances of receiving the commission for this project?
DDG has a holistic approach to real estate development and self-performs the design and construction of many of its buildings through its in-house teams of architects, designers and construction managers. XOCO 325 is a perfect example of this, where the acquisition of the development project by the company creates the commission for its design team.
Please provide an overview of the project.
The project is situated in SoHo’s landmarked Cast Iron District in Lower Manhattan. It is a residential condominium building with street level retail. The 21 custom residences range in size from 4,406 SF floor-through 4-bedroom residence to 1,055 SF 1-bedroom residences over a course of 10 Floors. On-site amenities include a domed fitness center, a private courtyard and full-time concierge services.
Conceptually the material and geometric composition of the building takes its cues from the surrounding environment. The façade is cloaked in a porous cast-aluminum screen that is intended to read as a historic cast iron façade that has been lifted above and continues to hover over the street. The form and bay syncopation relates the proportions and shapes found in the cast iron facades of the district, while the all-glass-storefronts on the ground floor connect to the world famous shopping destination. The raised façade screen slips past the building to envelope the 8th floor, creating a private, full building-width outdoor loggia which sets the building back from the street. This provided a material shift opportunity and the design team once again chose to take a cue from the district in which the building sits. We created a mansard-roof penthouse area clad in a diamond patterned Vermont slate with ultra-reductive detailing to pleasantly contrast the rich cast-aluminum façade screen.
XOCO 325’s interiors aim to reflect the exterior design, extending it into the building with reductive takes on traditional New York interior mouldings. Pulled plaster soffits, medallions, coves and domes provide familiar touches into the overtly minimal contemporary environment.
What are the main ideas and inspirations influencing the design of the building?
There were many ideas and inspirations for this building and together they all helped produce the final product. For example, we analyzed the skeletal forms of sea creatures and plants, paying careful attention to their anatomy as well as abstracting their forms. We also studied Victor Horta and Hector Guimard and the Art Nouveau style in addition to its organic rendering of metals and the notions of casting. We analyzed neighboring façade forms, drawing inspiration from the masonry structures that appeared to have been clad in suits of armor. We found plating ideas through New York’s cast iron architecture, its neoclassical forms and postmodern ideas about representation of history. The sizing of the bays is the result of a deep analysis of the JUDD Foundation on Spring Street. To us this building is rooted in the place where it stands and extends the architectural heritage of this district into the future.
The project’s narrative continues inside where interior details tended to be more subtle yet are still an extension of our original concept. With the interiors we opted to try and operate within the language of minimalism. Highly reductive notions about traditional interior plaster elements make reference to the cove moldings, decorative medallions and domes. Cornices anchor specific areas of larger spaces. These details illustrate the level of craft employed as well as echo familiar elements that come to mind when envisioning a New York residence. They also greatly affect the perception of space and provide cues on how to organize larger areas within a home. The central kitchen location and the island as a huge furniture piece appeal to a more seamless integration of living that references the artist loft type commonly found in SoHo.
Was the project influenced by any trends in energy-conservation, construction, or design?
The project anticipates LEED certification and has high efficiency VRV heating and cooling systems combined with in-slab hydronic radiant heated floors.
What products or materials have contributed to the success of the completed building?
Modern technology and the ability to visualize form with 3D models as well as to manipulate shapes and portray them in realistic ways before being built are what really helped us create the façade. The ultimate shape that was used to make the façade parts was delivered via a computer model to the fabricator who then templated a full scale slip cast form from solid blocks of polyurethane resin using a 5-axis CNC milling machine. The end result was a sculptural work cast by the great fine art foundry Walla Walla Foundry, which has created casts for many esteemed modern art sculptors including Matthew Barney, Urs Fischer, Paul McCarthy and Kiki Smith. The concept of casting – pouring a liquid into formwork to generate a geometry – was explored in both the interiors and exteriors of XOCO 325. Examples include the amoeba leave outs, cast into the structural slab edges, the board-formed details surrounding the elevator, the island wall and common hallways, and the board-formed fitness center dome in the courtyard.