Tammany Hall, located in the northeast corner of Union Square Park in Manhattan, was built in 1929 to house the Democratic Party machine that significantly regulated New York State’s politics. By 2016, the building was under New York Film Academy, the Union Square Theatre, and various retail shops on the ground floor. The renovation process after that focused on the three floors of historic street facades and added a new three story glazed dome. The building is working as a Class-A commercial building along with the restored landmark brick facades.

Timeline of restoration: Tammany Hall - Sheet1
View of the Tammany Building_©httpsbkskarch.comworktammany-hall.

The renovation of the building magnifies a point of dialogue between contemporary and historic architecture by carefully researching it and putting them in a way that they sync together. Its renovation included sensitively preserving two styles of architecture, the storefronts that were built according to the original design of the building and the three story rooftop addition.

As history says, somewhere in the 17th century, a Dutchman asked a Lenape Patriarch about the origin of people in this place. To his question, the patriarch drew a circle with four paws, a head, and a tail. That, according to him, is a tortoise lying in the water and one day would rise to become Turtle Island, which is now North America. After this much rigorous research and digging deep down into the history of the place and its people, it was decided that the roof of the building would depict a rising turtle. The glass dome got its inspiration from an increasing turtle shell showing the symbolism of the Lenape people; it is crowned with the Lenape symbolism. The renovated building has increased usable square footage and was the point of focus in Union Square.

Timeline of restoration: Tammany Hall - Sheet2
View from the street_©httpsbkskarch.comworktammany-hall.

“The building’s former life as the last headquarters for the political machine, Tammany Hall, inspired a daring, iconic design that remembers New York City history while anchoring the Park with a proud monumental structure” (BKSK). The glass dome adds an extra 30000 square feet to the interiors of the building. This dome with a contemporary style not only symbolizes the story of the Lenape people but also the long-forgotten background of Tammany Hall.

Timeline of restoration: Tammany Hall - Sheet3
Zoomed up view of the added dome_ ©httpsbkskarch.comworktammany-hall.

In 2013, BKSK decoupled the historic walls, braced them and reattached them to the new concrete structure to support the additional load of the dome. At the bottom of the dome, the designers built a hipped roof counteracting its former height. This tapered base of the dome is dressed with Terracotta sunshades. After deep research on what type of glass to be used on the dome a glass that provides climate and light control while offering clear views from inside to the park and beyond was selected. Along with its symbolic and huge look, it also caters as a good light source that outsources light to the deeper sections of the building. To avoid light glare and solar heat gain, the dome is made up of 850 insulated glass panes with solar coating on the outside, and tinted glass on the inside.

Timeline of restoration: Tammany Hall - Sheet4
Terracotta cladding at the hipped roof _©httpsbkskarch.comworktammany-hall.

“A 14-step process was developed to manage the delivery and installation of each of the 54 uniquely designed and sized primary steel members and more than 750 unique glass pieces; each had to be crane-set in place and assembled in precise order. Shoring posts were added to the fourth, fifth, and sixth floors to reinforce the dome’s incomplete steel framework as it was assembled, prior to glass installation” (World Architects, 2021).

Joe Baker, one of the co-founders of The Lenape’s Center stated that, “Our history is complex, one of the diasporic branches stemming from a trunk of many thousands of years of indigenous presence in the homeland to resistance and survival through the centuries of colonization. The turtle dome of Tammany Hall is a beacon for the future, calling the grandchildren home to Manhattan,” (Brandon 2020). This structure dramatized the way the building was settled up at the Union corner in a great way that it was never before. The turtle-shaped dome gives us a feeling of rising and encourages people with its soft curves. The structure beautifully heightens the building’s significance for its future and encourages connections to history by letting people know the story behind the dome symbolism. The structure not only merges smoothly with the classic style of architecture of the surroundings but also sets a benchmark on how two different styles of architecture could move parallelly.

Timeline of restoration: Tammany Hall - Sheet5
Ancient view of the building_©httpsmetropolismag.comprojectstammany-hall-bksk.

“Capping off the collaboration, the finished project was blessed in a traditional Lenape ceremony acknowledging past and future occupants of the site. The unexpected juxtaposition heightens the perception of the building’s significance, animates the corner of Union Square in a way it never was, and evokes connections to history that are important to both understand and acknowledge”.

References:

  1. M. Brandon, Elissaveta. (2020). BKSK Architect’s Tammany Hall Restoration Draws on Lenape Symbolism. Metropolis.

Available at: https://metropolismag.com/projects/tammany-hall-bksk/ [ Accessed: 2 December, 2020].

  1. BKSK. (2020). 44 Union Square. BKSK.

Available at: https://bkskarch.com/work/tammany-hall/ 

  1. World Architects. (2020). 44 Union Square. World Architects.

Available at: https://www.world-architects.com/en/architecture-news/reviews/44-union-square  [ Accessed on: 14 August, 2021].

Author

Pratishtha is an architecture graduate, for her architecture is not just about building structures, it's about how others experience those structures. Her belief is that architects are the ones who could invent different ways to choreograph user experience and convey their intent either through loud writing or silent aura of their design.

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