ANGELA O’BYRNE is the president of national architecture, design-build, and real estate development firm Perez, APC. She champions the principles of smart growth in her home community of New Orleans and in her frequent travels across the country and abroad. Born in Cali, Colombia, Angela is a licensed architect in over a dozen states,
a licensed general contractor in Louisiana, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and a member of the National CREW Network (Commercial Real Estate Women) Board of Directors. A singer, golfer, music-lover, and globetrotter, she relishes spending free time with her three grown children and large extended family. She is a Contributing Editor of and her Amazing Buildings feature appears in every issue of the network.
Instant History – Brooklyn’s Brand-New Art Deco Tower
After decades of rapid urban development, the word “condo” has come to conjure up a certain set of aesthetic expectations. One imagines something lavish and thoroughly contemporary—even slightly interchangeable. And while most condos broadcast cosmopolitan luxury, few new developments tell a story about the place they inhabit. But a new project in Brooklyn, where vintage styles have long held sway in the realms of fashion and food, could set a new trend for the residential skyscraper by reviving a spirit of period glamor and imagining a kind of speculative history.
Perhaps the most surprising and thing about the Brooklyn Tower is that it’s not located in Manhattan. With its Art Deco styling, the daring bronze-and-black glass building could easily pass for a Midtown icon alongside the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Plaza. Amongst utilitarian blue glass and red brick neighbors, it cuts a delicate figure. In fact, its existence seems to confirm something that’s been brewing for decades: the East River doesn’t mean what it used to.
Brooklyn’s first 1,000-foot building, Brooklyn Tower is unparalleled in its borough—both in height and in confidence. While slightly awkward in its supertall isolation, it is nonetheless a devastating nightgown of building, offering 150 condo units and 425 rental apartments. Set for completion this year, Brooklyn Tower is already the tallest building in its borough by approximately 350 feet and will come in at a cost of approximately $750 million.
Built on a triangular lot in downtown Brooklyn, the Tower adjoins and incorporates the historic landmark Brooklyn Dime Savings Bank building—an architectural icon of another stripe. Upon completion, the Bank will become a flagship retail space, lending its commanding Beaux Arts authority to a yet-to-be-determined commercial tenant. But while the marble-clad, 1900’s Bank feels like a checklist of Classical Revivalist details and filigrees, boasting an ultra-ornate style crammed with embellishments, columns, and enough marble to please a Greek god, the Tower is austere by comparison.
Designed by SHoP architects, the 93-story Tower employs a hexagonal footprint, mirroring the Bank’s geometry. Rising above the bank, the Tower distinguishes itself with soaring mullions and dramatic, asymmetrical setbacks, culminating in an elegant crown at the building’s apex.
The building’s interiors are similarly minimal, incorporating ultra-modern, minimalist versions of historical materials. The units offer 11-foot ceilings, full-height windows, and white oak floors. The marble is still here, but it’s unadorned and elegant. Condos will range anywhere between $875,000 and an eye-popping $8 million.
As one would expect from a top-tier condo building, Brooklyn Tower’s amenity list is maximalist. There’s a movie theatre, a full-fledged health club, and an open-air sky deck on floor 66 that boasts the world’s highest basketball court (with plenty of protection to prevent errant airballs from becoming dangerous missiles). Open on all sides, the 66th floor also allows for wind to pass through the building, reducing sway for the Tower’s upper floors. The building’s greatest amenity is reserved for condo owners: a “sky lounge” on the 85th floor, which offers previously impossible views of Manhattan.
In a playful gesture, the Tower uses the bank’s rooftop as a chic pool deck, surrounding the building’s prominent Guastavino dome with three sleek bathing areas. It’s tempting to wonder what the Bank’s meticulous architects would think of this imaginative reuse of their classical cupola.
It’s likely that the Tower will remain the tallest building in Brooklyn for decades, serving as a landmark in every sense. Its true peers are across the river: the recent generation of ultra-skinny buildings along Central Park. However, while those projects have attracted a spate of bad PR for construction problems, much of the Tower’s press has been positive.
Perhaps there’s something crucial in its architectural ambition. Its exorbitant price and prominence are tempered by its aesthetic generosity. Like the bank it builds on, the Brooklyn Tower revives a bygone period and imagines a beautiful past that never was. After all, if you’re going to build something imposing, you might as well give folks something worth looking up to.