Client: Fire Department of New York
Location: New York City, USA
Completion date: 2013
Artwork budget: $9,000,000
The Galante Architecture Studio
Fire Department of New York
This expansion of an existing fire station is clad in a terra-cotta rain screen, with inset cement board panels. Grey was chosen as a conceptual record of ashes found after a building fire. Southern sun is modulated with a bris-soleil (sunscreen), which incorporates the FDNY logo. The expansion doubles the building’s size to 12,500 square feet, and meets stringent design guidelines set by FDNY. Fire trucks are understood as rolling tool boxes, carrying equipment to fight fires. Fire stations operate as more complex static tool boxes; recharging equipment, tools and personnel.
The exterior is clad in terra cotta and cement board panels, with a leveling plinth of concrete at the ground plane. A tradition in fire house buildings is to use brick or brick color for the exterior. Here shades of grey were chosen to reflect the byproducts of fire. Metaphorically these tones reference the intense smoke and ash left over once fire fighters return to quarters.
Programmatically fire stations are a complex tool box to replenish people and house equipment. A fire truck is a rolling tool box, the building a large stationary one. Fire fighters prefer to minimize anyone’s gaze into the fire station, thus openings in the “tool” box are kept to a minimum; enough to see out, but small enough to limit break ins, and to limit visual access.
Planning involved work sessions with the Fire Department, in a tight urban context to maximize available space. This building could NOT be taken off line for renovation since it is the only emergency services building in this area of the Bronx. As a result, fire trucks deployed from this location over 3,000 times during the construction process. This level of disruption had series impacts on construction activities. However, construction activities never had impact on emergency response times; an essential fact for such a compact design and tight site.
Sun studies revealed offices would be flooded with natural light, yet that light needed to be tempered in order to perform daily tasks of reporting, management, and the like. A Bris Soliel prototype was hand built in our shop to include the FDNY logo between louvers, incorporating building identity. From the outside, the brand defines the building; from the inside members of the fire service know who, quite literally stands behind that brand. The message to the users is they are the backbone of FDNY.