Shigeru Ban on his masterfully minimalist interiors for Cast Iron House

new york building's and road's
Located on the corner of 67 Franklin Street in Tribeca, Cast Iron House is designed by Shigeru Ban. Originally built in 1881, the building is a quintessential example of New York’s 19th-century cast-iron architectural style.
(Image credit: Hayes Davidson)

Shigeru Ban likes to keep us guessing. The Pritzker Prize winner is best known for his radical tectonic experiments with materials like paper, wood and PVC plastic, and for his temporary designs for refugees and victims of natural disasters. But for his latest effort, Ban has created ultra-luxury condominiums inside a renovated 1881 cast iron building in Tribeca.

Cast Iron House, as the six-storey project is called, consists of 11 lofty duplex residences and two glass and steel penthouses, supported by cantilevered trusses. The building’s exterior has been immaculately restored—for instance, some 4,000 pieces of the building’s façade were recast at a foundry in Alabama, while the industrial-sized curved windows maintain their original sizing.

But the white, miminalist interiors are completely new, with Ban matching newly-formed floor slabs (there were originally no duplexes or mezzanines) with the original building line and designing every minute detail, including door handles, hand rails, sculptural kitchens and bathrooms and seamless joinery.

bedroom with art on the wall

The model apartment has been fitted out by interior designer Brad Ford. Pictured here in the second guest room, a queen sized bed in walnut and a Finn Juhl Frame Chair.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

‘I wanted to create a contrast between the old exterior and the new interior,’ says Ban. ‘Designing something old-fashioned for me is fake. Making this contrast is, I think more contextual.’

Spaces smoothly flow into each other, with as few dividing walls as possible. Most of the solid barriers are furniture, cabinets, or closets; a device, said Ban, inspired by his Furniture Houses, known for using storage as structure. ‘I call it invisible structure,’ says Ban. ‘I try to minimise materials and eliminate unneccessary elements like walls. If there’s a cabinet it can work like a wall.’

As for this foray into work for the very wealthy, Ban doesn't see any break from the rest of his oeuvre. ‘For me there’s no difference. I’m just interested in providing space people need. The importance of a project has nothing to do with the budget.’

While the project exudes simple elegance, Ban still managed to sneak in some subversive experiments. Because new floorplates didn’t always match up with existing windows, a few apartments’ glazing sits by your feet, creating very unusual views. As for those penthouses, which open completely to the city via folding glass doors, they’re the ultimate expression of diversion from the historic fabric.

‘We’re articulating the separation,’ says Ban, who, by the way, is now designing semi-permanent housing for South Sudanese refugees, combining new concepts with local building technologies and materials. So much for getting comfortable.

living space with sofa set and plant pot on table

The building is Ban’s first conversion project and contains 11 duplex residences and two penthouses.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

kitchen with art on the wall

The duplex residences vary in size from three, four and five bedrooms with double-height living spaces ranging from 17ft to 25ft.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

plant pot on the table

Ban worked with as few dividing walls as was possible, and also used storage as structure inspired by his ‘Furniture Houses’.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

office with table and chair

Ban has designed details of the interiors including door handles, hand rails, sculptural kitchens and bathrooms and seamless joinery.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

white room with sofa set and a table

The model apartment was staged by New York-based interior designer Brad Ford who paired vintage pieces with custom-designed and locally sourced contemporary pieces

(Image credit: press)

white bedroom with bed and chairs

The master bedroom features a king-sized canopy bed by Uhuru, a vintage settee by Larry Weinberg and two ‘Taza Loungers’ by Michael Robbins.

(Image credit: Scott Frances)

open penthouse with chairs

The two glass and steel penthouses are built on top of the original building, supported by cantilevered trusses

(Image credit: press)


For more information, visit the Shigeru Ban Architects website