Hugging the southwest corner of Long Island, NY, Brooklyn’s early identity was tied to Coney Island beach and the famed Brooklyn Dodgers. Today, however, the city is enjoying a renaissance of rediscovery thanks to artists, retailers, ambitious contractors and creative designers like Andre Kikoski Architect. The Manhattan-based firm just completed the renovation and conversion of two empty warehouse buildings at 22-28 Wyckoff Ave., transforming those once-abandoned structures into The Wyckoff Exchange, the Bushwick neighborhood’s newest mixed-use development.
Setting up shop in the former warehouses are three new retail tenants, an organic market and a boutique wine shop. Helping to secure the establishments during the off hours are horizontally opening bifold doors by Minnesota-based Schweiss Doors.
Simplicity is one of the reasons why the Schweiss bifolds were chosen for the project. Just raise them in the morning and the stores are open for business, ready to greet shoppers rediscovering a unique slice of old Brooklyn.
In the lexicon of the architect, the design solution is highly inventive—relying upon motorized scissor door technology adapted from airplane hangars and factory buildings. The five pairs of moving façade panels create an every-changing expression of tectonics and purpose. By day the panels fold up to serve as awnings for the stores, helping shelter pedestrians. By night they secure the shops and create an artful façade, which is defined by a flowing abstract gradient pattern of internally illuminated, laser-cut Corten and stainless steel.
Explained architect Adam Darter, “In the process of designing new frontage, we wanted structural integrity that also provided strong security for each store front. So a cohesive door system that complemented all five store fronts was important.
“We knew about bifold doors but had never worked with them. Our access to Schweiss Doors was through the Internet and it proved to be quite an eye-opener for us.
“Our firm focuses very strongly on the aesthetics so the idea of a bifold door totally encompassing the entire frontage of each store was a bit of a challenge.”
Schweiss has specific structural requirements relating to the positioning of its doors, particularly header requirements and trusses. “Coordinating our architectural details to match with their requirements so that everything blended as uniformly as possible was a great collaboration starting with initial design right on through shop drawings and the final build out,” noted Darter.
Since the Schweiss bifold door system was new to the firm, incorporating bifold doors into this total renovation was indeed a significant ‘learning process’. “Important to us was how we could push this new concept and create even more aesthetic value. A reliable security gate was needed but we didn’t want to do the standard ‘roll down’ store front which you see everywhere in this area.”
The Schweiss bifolds have 2” tubular steel frameworks with cladding applied both front and back. For the front side, the architects applied laser-cut Corten steel panels. This type of steel develops a burnished rust finish that actually protects and strengthens the steel over time. The entire building frontage is also clad in Corten, providing a ‘natural rust’ look to the entire façade. The interior doors skins are non-directional brushed stainless steel panels. Adding to the special looks is internal LED lighting mounted between the panels.
“The lighting reflects off the stainless steel which gives that cavity area a special glow,” said Darter. Lumen Architecture was the lighting designer on this particular job. Once again a series of shop drawings and actual mockups were part of the process.
Each of these doors is 18’ tall giving 9’ vertical clearance in the open position plus some shade and weather protection. Both 20’ and 14’ widths make up the five store fronts. Even with a very aggressive building schedule Darter said the Schweiss team back in Minnesota worked diligently to meet the construction deadline.
“They pushed to facilitate us as best they could. We’d certainly recommend other architectural firms take a look at Schweiss. We took their commercial airplane hangar door and brought it to a whole different vernacular and language.
“That was the fun of this particular project. For any architectural firm the challenge is exploring different products and then working hand-in-hand with the manufacturer to get the best out of that product. That was certainly our experience with Schweiss,” indicated Darter.
Concluded Andre Kikoski, “We wanted to create an iconic building to speak to the neighborhood’s emerging future as a center of art and creative energy so we designed a unique façade that is dramatic, inventive and inspired by the industrial qualities of the neighborhood’s past.
“With cutting-edge technologies and construction techniques, we transformed this 100-foot long, 18-foot-tall and 2-inch façade into a contemporary mural of light and texture. As an expression of our trademark inventiveness and poetry, and as an innovative approach to recycling buildings and creating a destination environment with an economy of means, the Wyckoff Exchange is truly a welcome development in this quickly evolving and dynamic neighborhood.”