Meet Me In The Middle
Edie Cohen -- Interior Design, 9/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Fraternal twins Joseph and John Dumbacher live almost 2,400 miles apart. (The former has a modern Los Angeles–area house by Hagy Belzberg, the latter a prewar apartment in Washington, D.C.) But when the brothers get together to work on their avant-garde artwork—reminiscent of Donald Judd—the meeting takes place in a TriBeCa loft renovated by Gluckman Mayner Architects.
The firm's art-centric portfolio includes projects far grander in scale, Dia: Chelsea in New York and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh among them. But did principal Richard Gluckman hesitate to take on a mere 1,000 square feet on the third floor of a century-old cast-iron building? Not a bit.
"The most interesting thing was that it was small, yet it came with such a dense program," Gluckman says. "Joe and John needed a place to sleep, a place to do their work, and a place to show it, all in a narrow rectangle."
Clients and architect hit on a main gesture at their first meeting, when John Dumbacher walked in with a photograph of a classic wooden workbench. "Richard said the solution was obvious," the artist recalls. "We'd split the loft in two halves with our 'workbench' running down the center."
In Gluckman's hands, the workbench idea became a table with a 22-by-3-foot top of pale gray Corian and a base of MDF painted a slightly darker shade of gray. That base incorporates small slots for books and large storage areas for custom folding mattresses—upscale futons, if you will. In back of the table, Gluckman installed a bare-bones "kitchen," a modest stainless-steel unit with an integral sink, plus space underneath for a refrigerator and open shelving. There's no need for a stove or dishwasher when Nobu is a neighbor.
The room's furnishings are equally pared-down: black Aeron task chairs and Rodolfo Dordoni's white leather-covered lounge. Walls are interrupted by only a plasma-screen TV, an abstract acrylic by Rainer Splitt, and Dumbacher works, composed of stabilized pigment and epoxy in zinc or stainless-steel boxes.
The Dumbachers' recent anodized-aluminum sculpture is more organic in form, melding craftsmanship and technology in a complex process involving computer renderings, foam molds, and special software to run the fabricating machinery. The brothers produce this work at the front of their loft, in a 95-square-foot alcove that Gluckman transformed into a pristine studio with the help of vinyl flooring and a sliding glass door.
At the rear of the loft, where each brother has a dressing room, Gluckman had to compensate for the lack of natural light. To enclose the dressing rooms, he used translucent acrylic sliding panels lit by fluorescents. Still cleverer is the kitchen's two-way mirror—and behind it the small bathroom. "Surprise and magic," John Dumbacher says of the treatment, which allows him to shower while looking all the way through to the loft's east-facing windows without becoming a piece of performance art.