Michaelangelo had the Medicis, Henry Radusky has these guys. Every great architect needs a great patron, and in Williamsburg, we are lucky indeed that Bricolage and KAI have found one another. Yes, its time again for another installment of the Brooklyn11211 B(N)B awards, an occasional celebration of north Brooklyn architecture and design1. Today, our award for Developer of the Year (Williamsburg), which goes to the KAI organization. Nitpickers will point out that most of the KAI buildings we are highlighting here were constructed some years ago – 2005 or before. Point taken, but this level of consistent and practiced banality cannot go unrecognized. So we’ll call this a lifetime achievement award, because so rarely do you find a collection of buildings that are so completely devoid of redeeming features, so replete in bad urban design and so, well, ugly.
For us, the grande dame of KAI’s Southside holdings will always be 120 South 2nd Street, a building that defies every norm of good taste and sensible urban design. This is a building whose primary gesture to the neighborhood is a moat. An unlandscaped pit of concrete whose only decorative gestures are a pipe railing, a row of trash cans and faux brick panels over the air-conditioner sleeves. Of course, there are balconies – people need more above-ground bike racks. (This building earns special white trash points for the tenants, who also manage to put all manner of furniture on the balconies – we wouldn’t be surprised to see a rusted washing machine or a Camaro up on blocks appear on one of these balconies.) And of course this all comes clad in Henry Radusky’s finest Bricolage.
Then there is 337 Bedford, which returns the historic gable front to Williamsburg architecture. Sure, its probably only there as a zoning dodge, to create an “attic” that doesn’t count against floor area, but isn’t it decorative? Once again, the streetwall shall not be honored – you don’t want a continuous street wall in NYC. The rusticated precast concrete and crenelated parapet/balcony could be humanizing touches, but in the hands of Mr. Radusky, they scratching your head and asking “what the fuck?”. And more bicycle racks!
241 South 2nd Street? Perhaps the best of the bunch (seriously – this could be the least offensive). Sure the shoddy construction shines through – we particularly like the haphazard detail of the through-wall dryer vents – but the street wall is nearly intact, and the bicycle racks downright subtle.
208 South 3rd Street (on the corner of Roebling) looks to be the largest (and most recent) KAI development we’ve found to date (we’re sure there are more – please, assault our senses). The “decorative” cast concrete at the base is completely without logic, as is the decorative soldier-course brick on the upper stories (extra credit for what appears to a few different kinds of red brick for the facade itself). The ground floor commercial space is for rent, for all you bunker lovers out there – its very secure, even if the head room is a little tight. As always, we love the kontextual keystones (a hallmark of Bricolage, sadly missing from the other KAI projects), and hands down, this building wins the prize for largest bicycle racks in Williamsburg. So there you have it – KAI, Williamsburg developer of the year. Our architect of the year award will probably not come as a surprise… 1. For those of you who missed the earlier installments, the B(N)B awards were started in response the recent Building Brooklyn awards. Amazingly, these Borough-wide awards for outstanding architecture failed to recognize a single North Brooklyn project (and only found one even worth nominating). To rectify this clear injustice, we’ve decided to highlight some of the, well, highlights of North Brooklyn architecture over the past year.↩