Located just off the High Line, 520 West 20th Street is a new commercial office building comprised of a four-story brick warehouse, built in 1914, as well as a cantilevered overbuild that adds three stories appearing to float above the existing structure.
Rather than compete with the high-profile architectural spectacles that have recently risen along the High Line, one of the key objectives of the adaptive reuse project was to rehabilitate the old manufacturing warehouse, one of the few remaining vestiges of Chelsea’s industrial past, as a reminder of the neighborhood’s history. Hovering above it, however, the sleek glass and steel addition reflects more contemporary values bridging the past and the present.
The original warehouse, 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 original concrete, brick, and timber elements that imbue the office space with warmth and historic resonance. These same materials reappear in the new lobby, alongside board-formed concrete walls. The lobby also showcases a custom reception desk and large feature wall that was inspired by the linear- and grid-format sculptural work of Carl Andre—built using repurposed railroad ties that recall the nearby High Line.
The new three-story structure does not just look like a bridge; it also acts like a bridge. The cantilevered overbuild provides brand new, Class-A office spaces that contrast with the raw, post-industrial spaces inside the preserved warehouse.
While the new addition and the old warehouse may appear to be completely unrelated, they are in fact shaped by their relationship with each other. The original building inspired the design of the addition, which, in turn, made it possible to fully appreciate the features of the historic warehouse.