Community, health, safety, privacy: keywords presented by the client for a proposed recording studio to be carved out of the basement and cellar of a Manhattan townhouse. Deep below the sidewalk, the new double-height space will be protected in the “roots” of the city, surrounded by the stone and brick of the building foundations. But, it has to have great daylight. The proposed design brings a beam of reflected sunlight from the roof and places it onto the floor of the studio, creating a natural gathering place and a center: a sunlight “hearth.” And, bright sunlight where usually there is dark and dank.
This is accomplished with an affordable and lightweight heliostat mounted to the roof of the building, which tracks the sun and continuously reflects a column of light through a series of fixed mirrors across the roof, down an existing courtyard, and through a high window to the studio ceiling, where part of its beam is diffused throughout the space and the rest is bounced directly to the center of the studio floor. Surrounding this light beam are the acoustical treatments and control spaces necessary to the facility, designed from an intentionally contrasting materials palette to pull back at the edges and expose the rough brick and stone which so strongly identify where users of the space are, snug and comfortably insulated from the intensity of the surrounding city. The treatments are proposed in a demountable configuration, allowing the room to be “tuned” to varying acoustic purposes and allowing varying perceptions of the masonry walls behind.