Like the revitalization successes at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Industry City, the Domino Sugar Refinery will soon return to life as the nerve center of a new working waterfront in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
The structure was originally built to consolidate three functions inside three conjoined buildings—the filtering, panning, and finishing of sugar—that required the use of enormous equipment housed in cavernous, multistory spaces purposefully obscured by the repetitive punched arch windows in the masonry.
Although these windows were misaligned across the four facades, together they give the entire structure a singular, monumental appearance, crowned by the muscular smokestack on the west elevation built out of radial brick.
In 2017. the architects at PAU started designing the adaptive reuse of the Refinery building, intended to be the revitalizing crown jewel of the new mixed-use neighborhood.
The master plan was conceived by PAU founder Vishaan Chakrabarti, and included an activated mix of creative office space, market-rate and affordable housing, neighborhood retail, and community facilities.
PAU was tasked with creating open architecture that seamlessly connects the existing neighborhood to the recaptured waterfront a quarter-mile long.
The result is a state-of-the-art, 425,000-square-foot workspace housed within a beautiful, idiosyncratic urban artifact that is unique to the post-industrial Williamsburg neighborhood, offering a singular experience for its inhabitants and the larger community alike.Rather than navigating the misaligned floors and window sills across the combined masonry shell, PAU adopted a different approach: nesting a brand-new building into the existing envelope, with a 10- to 12-foot gap between the new and the old.
By pulling back from the original walls, ideal and standardized floor heights can be achieved, creating best-in-class office space that is designed to meet the needs of new tenants.
The array of historic windows, uninterrupted by interior partitions, reveal expansive views of Manhattan while allowing the extant structure to be appreciated in an unobstructed form.
Rising above and in celebration of the historic structure will be a new glass barrel vault, echoing the American Round Arch Style and singular muscular form in which the original Refinery was rendered.
On the ground floor, the windows will be transformed into doors to create a porous enfilade, allowing pedestrians to pass through the Refinery from Kent Avenue into a public foyer to the already completed Domino Park, which revitalized the adjacent waterfront property.
All photographs are by Max Touhey.