Brooklyn's leafy Fort Greene seems like an odd bedfellow for the sculptural and monolithic forms of Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne. But the Los Angeles-based Morphosis principal is trying his hand in the historic neighborhood, attempting to replace a run-down garage behind a prominent Italianate townhouse with a sculptural carriage house. 

The proposal for 176 Washington Park on the corner of Willoughby Avenue was brought before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) yesterday, March 9, seeking approval to restore the 1868 townhouse and demolish a rear garage and erect a modern carriage house in its place.

While the proposed restoration (to be completed by architect Ted Kane) for the historic home did not pop out as anything beyond run-of-the-mill, the 2,000-square-foot carriage house design Mayne debuted could easily be described as unconventional. 

Thom Mayne | Kane Architecture and Urban Design | LPC

Thom Mayne | Kane Architecture and Urban Design | LPC

Mayne presented to project to the LPC in a very casual manner, underscoring the design's "simplicity" and "straightforwardness" noting that he was not looking to create “anything special” nor "an icon" for the lot (owned by his son, Sam Mayne) but to simply follow its site lines and maintain continuity. 

Many, however, did not agree with his sentiments. More than one neighborhood resident showed concern over the buildings massing. Others were troubled with the aesthetic, with one local saying that the new addition "bears no resemblance to any existing carriage house." 

Architects Steven Holl and Henry-Smith Miller came out to speak in support of the project. Holl has already made a mark in the neighborhood having designed the architecture building at the Pratt Institute just a couple of blocks away.

Thom Mayne | Kane Architecture and Urban Design | LPC

The commission's judgments were also mixed. Commissioner Michael Devonshire deemed the proposal "not an addition" but "a new building” that gave him "the impression of a demolished building,” while commissioner Jeanne Lufty found it “institutional” in aesthetic.

On the other end, Commissioner Michael Goldblum came out in favor, calling Mayne's design “a really cool project” and "appropriate." Commissioner Fred Bland called it "a little piece of genius."

Ultimately the LPC took no action and asked the design team to refine their proposal for the carriage house then return. The commission suggested that the screen wall either be either lowered or moved back from the street wall so that it would not rival neighboring townhouses.