SO – IL clads Nine Chapel, a residence in Downtown Brooklyn, in perforated aluminum screens

Architect: SO – IL
Completion Date:

Work nears completion at 9 Chapel Street, a new residential tower in Downtown Brooklyn designed by SO – IL. This is the firm’s latest collaboration with Tankhouse—a boutique developer cofounded by Sam Alyson-Mayne, son of Morphosis’s Thom Mayne. Perforated aluminum cladding envelopes the building’s facade and generous outdoor spaces: Each unit features a balcony and is accessible via a ventilated corridor—features that demand a premium in New York City’s space-squeezed real estate market.

The building benefits significantly from its location. Situated next to an NYPD parking lot, the tower is located at the termination of Chapel Street and the intersection of Jay and Concord Streets. To its east is a low-rise industrial building and the southern elevation flanks a landmarked church. Because of these unique conditions, Nine Chapel is open on all four sides—a miraculous feat in America’s densest city.

9 chapel street and its historic neighbor
A landmarked church occupies the lot directly south of 9 Chapel Street. (Valeria Flores)

The construction of Nine Chapel follows close on the heels of  SO – IL and Tankhouse’s first collaboration, located at 450 Warren Street in nearby Boerum Hill. Both buildings deliver on the same concept, providing buyers with balcony space and semi-outdoor circulation corridors. The pair are also at work on another project, 134 Vanderbilt Avenue, located on the border between Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. Notable for its pink precast concrete facade, the building is expect to complete construction by the end of 2024.

According to Sam Zeif, project manager at Tankhouse, the developer’s mission is to deliver “homes with multiple orientations, access to light and air, access to exterior space.”

“Every single unit we’ve ever sold has outdoor space, they all have at least two orientations,” he added. “You never find yourself in a double loaded corridor, you’re always moving from one exterior space to another.”

To date, Tankhouse has only purchased and developed corner lots, spaces ripe with the conditions described above.

perforated aluminum
The building’s perforated aluminum screens help to shade balcony spaces. (Valeria Flores)

Nine Chapel’s concrete structure is clad in perforated aluminum panels designed with a stylistic corrugation that is at once aesthetically pleasing and practical, allowing the panels to span between slabs without the need for supplementary support. Around the balconies and terraces, the panels are slightly over dimensioned, framing and shading the spaces.

The corrugation, which has been scaled up in size, in combination with the panel’s transparency, makes it appear as if the building is draped in a thin metallic curtain. Much of the firm’s work alludes to fabric, such as the Kukje Gallery in Seoul which is cloaked in chainmail.

“If you imagine a fluted facade, you would have the curves only on the outside and the straight edges only on the inside, which we didn’t want,” said Karilyn Johansen, senior associate at SO – IL. “We wanted to have both the undulating curves and the straight lines on both sides of the facade, so you don’t feel that you’re on the back of something but really within a curtain or fabric”

balcony space with concrete masonry
Custom concrete masonry was specified for internal corridors and balcony space. (Jonathan Hokko)

The building’s balconies, internal corridors, and elevator tower are decorated with curved concrete blocks that mimic the corrugation of the aluminum panels. These segments of the facade are reminiscent of 450 Warren, where custom concrete masonry was also used.

9CS SEL 02
9 Chapel Street rises 13 stories. (Valeria Flores)

Rising 14 stories, Nine Chapel delivers 27 units total. The scale of the project was limited, of course, by zoning which constrained height to 135 feet, but also by the relatively small size of the site, which measures 50 by 100 feet, significantly smaller than the lots for the Vanderbilt Ave and Warren Street projects.

Permitting for the project was complicated by its position above the F train tacks which run beneath Jay Street. When laying the foundation, the construction team was required to coordinate with the Department of Transportation (DOT) to ensure that the piles did not encroach on the subway tunnels.

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Unit floor plan (Courtesy SO – IL and Tankhouse)

Nine Chapel’s complex exterior massing was driven by unusual interior floor plans that were designed to give each unit multiple orientations, avoiding the rectilinear layouts that define most New York City apartment buildings.

Though a new residential tower is by no means uncommon in Downtown Brooklyn—the neighborhood’s skyline has dramatically transformed over the past decade—SO – IL’s Nine Chapel, as well as the firm’s projects on Vanderbilt Avenue and Warren Street, stand out from their more conventional contemporaries, proving that formal innovation is still possible despite the ruthless market forces that govern real estate development.


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