As designers of a physical space, one of the many hats we wear is the architect hat. Sometimes our purposes are structural, sometimes aesthetic. I’m not an architect, but I do have an appreciation for the art and science of architecture, particularly the well-loved gems of decades past. Often today, efficiency might edge out beauty when designing a new building, and it makes you stop and appreciate the effort and detail that went into older structures with personality. For example, New York’s Grand Central Station or the overall charm of a place like Savannah, Georgia. You just don’t see architecture like that anymore, or do you?
Enter Roman and Williams Building and Interiors, founded by designers Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch. I was introduced to them through CBS Sunday Morning (you can watch the clip here). When discussing this very topic, the show highlighted Roman and Williams for their impeccable attention to detail and passion for staying true to a structure’s, or neighborhood’s, time period. Forget using faux brick; they stay so authentic to the design of the time that their buildings often use materials like “dead stock” bricks (meaning those bricks literally have not been used since the time they were created, which can often be a half-century or more). Many of you might be familiar with their more commercial works like The Royalton Hotel (NYC), The Boom Boom Room in The Standard Hotel (The High Line in NYC), The Ace Hotel (NYC), Stumptown Coffee (Brooklyn) and Facebook HQ’s cafeteria, to name a few. For one of their latest private residence projects—211 Elizabeth Street—the building looks so beautifully classic that it’s remarkably unremarkable. A brick building that was built from the ground up appears to have been in its spot for the past 70 years, when in fact it’s only a few years young.
Many times, historic buildings are not just preserved to save that certain piece of history, but it’s because the communities and committees fear what might come in its place. In the case of New York’s original Penn Station, which was torn down to be replaced by the less aesthetically pleasing Madison Square Garden, I can certainly understand the worry. Architects Standefer and Alesch are confident this is a trend that will continue to influence the design community; my hope is that they’re right.