MATEI Renovates NYC’S Historic Germania Bank Building

PROJECT NAME Great Bowery
LOCATION New York
FIRM MATEI

When the hip photo-licensing bureau Trunk Archive decided to expand, creating a consortium of fashion-industry creative agencies, it called on Corvin Matei to design the new HQ. The Romanian-born, Columbia-educated talent—an alum of Polshek Partnership and Hanrahan Meyers Architects—was an obvious choice: His nine-year-old firm had masterminded the client’s previous New York location. The self-effacing Matei is known not for a signature look but for his meticulously detailed modernism, on display in retail spaces for Philosophy and Origins and the workplaces of Art+Commerce and AR Media.

A top-floor conference room with photography by Paola Kudacki. Photography by Travis Mark.

This time around, the task was to renovate the top five stories of the neo-Renaissance Germania Bank building on the Bowery, which had served for nearly 50 years as the graffiti-strewn live/work space of photographer Jay Maisel. “The structure had barely been touched for a century; it was like a time capsule,” says Matei (who coincidentally lives right across the street). “It didn’t make sense to reinvent the space, but rather to preserve as much as possible while introducing a modern language.”

He selected simple, graphic materials—plate glass, black and white lacquer—to demarcate all that is new, from window frames to built-in furniture. Period details were refurbished, such as the mosaic flooring and a decommissioned copper elevator cab, now a phone booth. Meanwhile, the clients so loved the Germania Bank’s “GB” logo in the original details that they renamed their company Great Bowery.

The graffiti-strewn original facade of the landmarked Germania Bank building. Photography by Louisa Corbett.
The top five floors are now home to Great Bowery. Photography by Travis Mark.
The stairwell’s restored plasterwork skylight. Photography by Travis Mark.
Original brass doorknobs bear the GB logo. Photography by Travis Mark.
Original mosaic floors were refurbished. Photography by Travis Mark.
Shelves serve as space dividers in the concrete-paved second floor. Photography by Travis Mark.
A defunct copper elevator cab was dismantled, removed from its shaft, and rebuilt as a phone booth. Photography by Travis Mark.

> See more from Interior Design’s list of 40 up-and-comers

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