This commercial office building, located just off the High Line, incorporates an existing brick structure that is one of the few remaining vestiges of the district’s industrial past. Rather than compete with the high-profile architectural spectacles that have risen along with Chelsea’s transformation, the owners of 520 West 20th Street were intent on rehabilitating the old manufacturing warehouse as a reminder of the neighborhood’s history. Hovering above it, however, an industrial-inspired addition reflects more contemporary values to bridge the past and the present.
The original warehouse—more recently used as a parking garage—is undisturbed, its exterior preserved exactly as found, with patches of discolored brick and faded advertisements left intact. Inside, the generous ceiling heights of the original building remain, as do the original concrete, brick and timber elements that imbue the office space with warmth and historic resonance. These materials reappear in the new lobby, which is defined by board-formed concrete walls and a custom reception desk inspired by the work of Carl Andre and built using repurposed railroad ties that recall the nearby High Line.
The historic integrity of the warehouse is preserved through the two vertical cores that independently support the glass and steel addition. Originally inspired by the car elevators that anchored the building’s east and west sides, these cores carry vertical circulation and mechanical systems through both structures, emerging like masts to support the glass-and-steel volume spanning between them—this new three-story structure doesn’t just look like a bridge; it also acts like a bridge.
520 West 20th Street is being targeted to leading tech companies that are increasing their footprint in NYC as the city’s tech industry continues to grow.