Architectural Record: New Lab at Brooklyn Navy Yard
Published in Architectural Record, June 2019
Originally a machine shop for naval equipment, the Brooklyn Navy Yard Building 128, built in 1899, seemed a symbolic fit for modern-day fabrication. Encouraged by historic-restoration grants, loans, and tax credits from government agencies, developer Macro Sea entered into a public-private partnership to convert the building into New Lab, a coworking community with onsite prototyping facilities for frontier-tech entrepreneurs. To bring the structure up to date, Macro Sea tapped New York–based Marvel Architects.
The architects stripped the exterior back to the building’s steel skeleton and restored its original historic appearance with insulated metal panels and windows. Inside, the project team preserved structural relics, such as the existing trusses and gantries, while inserting new elements that both refer to the building’s past and meet contemporary programming needs. Single-story enclosures, for example, evoke the material stacks and machining stations that once lined the ground floor’s perimeter. But they also contain key spaces—such as studios and the fabrication lab—while forming the base for a mezzanine floor. A new second level, occupying two sides of the interior, overlooks this mezzanine and the ground floor, with bridges, supported by the gantries, providing access across the interior. These buildouts increased the square footage by 32,000, bringing the total area to 84,000 square feet.
A variety of spaces—from private offices and benching zones to meeting rooms and breakout lounges—helps foster connections among member tenants and ensures that there’s an environment well suited to accommodate numerous work styles and endeavors, whether to develop robotics or advance artificial intelligence. Since its opening in 2016, New Lab has been flourishing, seeing the start-ups and small companies it houses raise upwards of $450 million in capital; some have entered into particularly lucrative deals, such as that of JUMP, a bike-sharing venture whose R&D team called New Lab home from the start, which was acquired by UBER for $250 million.