MSA NYC Architect Staff Feature: Kara Koirtyohann R.A.
Featured Project: NYC Rooftop Addition at the High Line
Current Position at Murdock Solon Architects:
When did you join Murdock Solon Architects?
Project Architect. I am currently responsible for all aspects of the project's progress. I attend construction meetings, review construction progress, and help resolve issues when they come up.
What has been the best part of the project?
Like any project, it is always great to see your ideas realized in the construction phase. As an architect, you dedicate so much time to planning and designing a project. This project is a good example; we have been working on the design of the rooftop additions for at least 4 years, initially submitting drawings to Landmarks and the DoB in 2008. It's always a fantastic moment when the project transitions from paper to built form.
In particular, this project is interesting in that the job site is directly across the street from our office. All I have to do is peek out the window and I know what's happening on site. It's been fun to watch the project being built day by day.
Additionally, this project's site presents some unique opportunities. As the High Line has become a major attraction and venue for public recreation, the project will become a recognized contribution to the urban fabric and skyline of New York City. It's exciting to be a part of shaping the City and contributing to its constant evolution.
What has been the most challenging part of the project and why?
As I mentioned, the project has had an extended time frame and worked through a significant approval process. It can be challenging to maintain patience while moving through the lengthy pre-construction process.
Also, as a renovation and addition to an existing structure, the project requires sensitivity to the existing conditions. We have to work around not only existing structure, but also existing tenants. Occasionally, we might open a wall and discover unexpected conditions, which requires pause and readjustment to the design, but this keeps the days interesting!
As you are nearing the end of the first building's completion this spring, what do you hope the feedback will be from those on the skyline and then in the NYC architecture community?
The High Line has created an entirely new type of street front where elevated apartments now take on a presence at the pedestrian level. Second and third floor fire escapes have effectively become sidewalk stoops. Our project will contribute to this new type of street front architecture and enhance the connection of the High Line to the adjacent buildings, making a visual connection from the walkway to the office and gallery activity inside the additions.
What do you think makes being an architect in NYC different than anywhere else in the country?
The sheer number of architects and designers who live and work here means that there is a constant exploration of new ideas. It is exciting to be a participant and a spectator at this active node.
Additionally, the history of New York City and its urban fabric – it's organic growth based on commerce, the high value of the individual lot created by Manhattan's existence as an island, the history for bold design strategies (Central Park, the Grid, the High Line) – seems to be unique among cities. I believe New York has a commitment to built space that is not found in many U.S. cities.
What's the best thing about being one of the NYC architects at Murdock Solon Architects?
We have a great diversity of projects, and each person brings unique ideas to the office. We work hard and have a lot of fun.
What other projects do you have going on right now?
I am working on a number of other improvements to this same set of buildings: the design of a new facade, a gallery renovation, and some additional exterior improvement work. I'm also working on a house under construction in New Jersey and contributing to the design of MSA's new office space!
What has been your favorite residential or commercial architecture project at Murdock Solon Architects?
. It maintains the tough industrial nature of the original space, but still creates warm and inviting areas.
– See more of our NYC commercial architecture projects here