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Valeria Arms co-op project: historical approach.

Valeria Arms co-op project: Historical approach

It was apparent upon our first inspection and consultation with the board president, Ms. Joanne Rubin, that a historical approach was desired and most appropriate for the direction in which the rehabilitation would take. However, the commitment on the part of Ms. Rubin and her fellow Board members to this concept overcame any objections that arose from the tenants' initial resistance to such a powerful design. Upon completion of this project, an almost unanimous solidarity of agreement that the results were pleasing and successfully developed once all of the items were in place and functioning.

The original detailing was lost long ago due to evolving maintenance practices of middle-income rental housing management, yet was hidden intact waiting to be restored 63 years after initial occupancy in 1928. The location of the residence, which is adjacent to the historic Forest Hills Gardens area, was a factor in the original design of the lobby and building facades, and subsequently influenced the choices that we made in our restoration planning.

Therefore, English Tudor Gothic precedent was our guide both as to color and finish with the faux materials of wood and marble, as well as in the form of the security gate that was inserted into the front lobby area. The doorman station, abandoned and razed many years before, but beyond the means for the Board to reinstate, was replaced by a wrought iron gate activated by the existing intercom system relocated and integrated into a new security vestibule as part of the entrance.

The gate in a sense is a "shrine to security", making direct reference to the church altar baldichino screens, and is deliberately an attempt to add a daily experience of beauty and inspiration to its basic protective function as people come and go through the passageway. Moreover, by being permeable, the lobby space surround is preserved in a delicate balance of scale and clearly seen as the counterpoint and container-with form and function unified as one.

Now having been secured, the mail-boxes were relocated close by the same area as situated previously but replaced with modern units and a package shelf newly added. The french doors separating the elevator lobby from the remaining public ground floor areas were provided as a sound and weather buffer with the substrate and finish exactly matching the adjacent faux on plaster surfaces. The light fixtures are contextual and effective in helping to set the appropriate mood for the lobby function in a more superior way than what was there before.

The project took one year from the initial walk-through made by the owner and architect to its completion this past February. Several apartments have been sold since, in a very tight recessionary market, partly due to the renovation, and the overall value of the property has certainly increased. It was a daring and sophisticated move made by a group of individuals not expected to do so, in a location normally thought to be populated by the silent majority.

PHOTO : The Valeria Cooperative Residence Forest Hills, N.Y.

Steven J. Gottesman, AIA
COPYRIGHT 1991 Hagedorn Publication
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Renovation & Rehabilitation Supplement
Author:Gottesman, Steven J.
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jul 24, 1991
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