Thassos White Marble Adds Reflection and Beauty to 2 Bryant Park Lobby Project
Photos appear courtesy of Pavel Bendov/ArchExplorer.
There aren’t many nearly freestanding buildings in the middle of New York City, but 2 Bryant Park is located on a unique site.
“The building, which is not the tallest building in the area, happens to be open on three sides,” Dan Shannon, architect and managing partner of MdeAS, an architectural company that specializes in commercial office building development, institutional, and multifamily residential developments primarily in the New York City and metropolitan area.
To give some perspective of 2 Bryant Park’s location, it is surrounded by Bryant Park to the south and the Avenue of the Americas on the west. A public plaza is located on the north side.
The existing building cut the two parks off from one another and had a small, poorly positioned lobby. To better connect these spaces, the central column bay and structural slab were removed from the first and second floor, creating a double-height lobby concourse linking the two parks and pulling pedestrians from one space to the other.
Shannon and his team wanted to take advantage of the unique footprint of the building and connect the park to the plaza visually. Choosing the right natural stone would prove to be a pivotal decision. They decided to create a two-story high entry lobby passage through the building and elevate that open space using Thassos White marble from Greece along the primary and surrounding walls.
Why Use Natural Stone?
Shannon is drawn to using natural stone in his projects because natural stone represents quality, durability, tradition, and elegance. He finds we’re also fundamentally moved by natural materials like wood or stone.
“It’s part of our psyche. It’s part of where we came from. It’s part of where we’re going,” Shannon explains. “When people respond in a positive way to an architectural space, it generally has a lot to do with the use of natural materials.”
When he was working on 2 Bryant Park, Shannon was clear in his vision for the spacious lobby and entryway. Those who live, work, and visit New York City are often in a hurry. They need to get from one place to the other and don’t have time to notice the beauty in plain sight. He wanted people who walked into that space to stop—to notice and appreciate the natural stone. He wanted them to respond to it.
The Different Facets of Thassos White Marble
Thassos White marble offers different appearances depending on how it’s treated, and that’s one of the reasons he really wanted to use it in 2 Bryant Park.
The predominant walls were made of honed slabs and nylon brushed. “What the nylon brushing did was give it a very nice matte finish,” Shannon explains, “but it also unified the material.”
Shannon reminds us that all natural stone carries some blemishes because it’s a product from nature and not manmade. Through experimentation with their partner in Italy, Roberto Canali from Euromarble, they were able to cover or eliminate some of the blemishes through nylon brushing.
Nylon brushing is also commonly referred to as a leathered finish. “It feels like leather, it’s got a little bit of rippling, but it’s not as rough as thermal,” Shannon adds. “It came into prominence about five to ten years ago and they’re doing it mostly on marbles because it gives the marble a kind of old world look to it. It looks like it’s worn. It gives it a richness.”
Whereas part of the wall features a nearly pure-white sleek matte finish, he and the team wanted contrast for the sides, so they considered black Italian slate.
“Slate has that beautiful cleft finish,” Shannon says. “When it gets pressure along that grain, it cleaves and creates that nice texture cleft surface, which looks like you you’re looking at the topography of the world.”
While the design team and ownership really liked that look, it was decided that the black Italian slate was too much contrast for this room. “We all wanted a more subtle reading.”
This is where the versatility of Thassos White marble came back into play. Shannon went back to Canali to experiment with a different technique on the stone.
“We took large, thick pieces of the Thassos and put them into this hydraulic machine which had a blade on it, which puts pressure along the grain, on top of it, and it shears the marble,” Shannon explains. “What we found was within reason, with a certain size, with a certain amount of pressure, that we could get a positive result in terms of what we were looking for in the appearance.”
The appearance they were going for was that rougher quarry face when you’ve knocked out the blocks.
To achieve the look was the result of a process that involved finding the right size panels that would give them the kind of contours they wanted. “The bigger the panel, the more profile it was, and we couldn’t control it,” he notes. Finding the right size meant they could control the process better by placing the stone panels on wheeled carts so they could move them around. This allowed them to see how they each looked next to each other and get them closer to looking like they naturally belong to each other.
This process also allowed them to work on the panels by hand since some needed handwork to knock down some of the profile. “You may find a perfect piece but it had one bad part,” Shannon says. In that case, someone on Canali’s team would hit it with the chisel and be able to smooth out some of the imperfections or profiles that didn’t work with the adjacent material.
Natural Light Reflections on the Marble
One of the things Shannon is most proud is how well the natural stone looks on the walls and how the impressive entryway connects to one of New York City’s popular green public spaces.
“It’s kind of like this kaleidoscope connecting these two worlds,” he says. “It really does happen during the day. Sometimes you get the green reflection of the trees that tint the stone because it’s white, and I think that’s just magical. It really is that contrast and the simplicity of it. That is fantastic, you know, just really unique.”
Shannon’s initial vision for the lobby of 2 Bryant Park was for people who walked into that space to stop, to notice and respond to the natural stone. There is no doubt that 2 Bryant Park has carved a name for itself thanks to Shannon and his team who were willing to experiment with what natural stone could do.