Shutter House

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The Shutter House, designed by architect Shigeru Ban, is a building in lower Chelsea, in New York City. The condominium building has 9 units and is an 11-story structure, including a ground floor gallery.[1] The building incorporates a layered façade with a unique shutter system, reflecting the industrial past of the Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. The design, completed in May 2011, brings new life to New York residential architecture, and transforms the idea of traditional apartment living.


The idea for the Shutter House came to life while much of Manhattan experienced changes in urban development. The design began as a simple two-story renovation project, in 2005, when a well-known gallery owner Klemens Gasser contacted Shigeru Ban.[2] The rezoning of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District, as a result of the High Line development was the major urban development change to influence the Shutter House design. The High Line previously existed as an elevated industrial railroad, but after much debate, was repurposed as a public park.[3] In 1999, a non-profit group known as The Friends of the High Line formed when threats of demolition loomed over the railroad remnant. Today, Friends of the High Line along with the city of New York work together to preserve the structure as a park.[4] Rezoning of Chelsea and the Meatpacking District greatly influenced the Shutter House with an art-infused neighborhood. The Special West Chelsea District was created in co-ordinance with rezoning plans, designated to encourage significant economic and residential growth.[5] Ban was commissioned by his client the same year in which the rezoning of West Chelsea took place.

The rezoning of West Chelsea created great incentives for residential development. These new opportunities influenced Ban and his client to scrap the renovation plans and instead opt for a total rebuild. Although scheduled for completion in 2008, construction was not completed until May 2011.


Architect Shigeru Ban (born in Tokyo, Japan, 1957) is known for creating architecture that gives back to society. Ban studied at the Southern California Institute of Architecture, as well as the Cooper Union School of Architecture, in New York City. He received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cooper Union in 1984. He owns and operates his own practice, Shigeru Ban Architects, run out of Tokyo, Japan. Ban also has offices in both Europe and the United States.[6]

Ban is an international architect, having worked on a variety of projects including museums, houses, and shelters. He is very well known for being an innovative designer of temporary housing, needed because of natural and manmade disasters.[7] His temporary housing designs are typically low budget and easy to assemble by individuals without skills in building trades. Ban is also well known for his use of unconventional building materials, such as paper tubes and cardboard, which can be configured into structurally sound “log” members.[8] He often campaigns to raise money for the creation and construction of these temporary homes through organizations like Make It Right Foundation New Orleans, founded by Brad Pitt.[9] From 2006 to 2009, he was a member for the jury of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Some of his best-known works include the Japanese Pavilion (2000, Hanover Expo in Germany), Paper Arch (2000, Museum of Modern Art, New York), and the Naked House (2000, Saitama, Japan).[10]

In addition to being an innovative practicing architect, Ban has taught at many prestigious academic institutions. Among these institutions are Columbia University in New York City, Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and Kyoto University of Art and Design. Shigeru Ban brings his interest in reducing material waste, as well as exploring innovative and ecological material relationships to his teaching.


Site and Context[edit]

Shigeru Ban’s Shutter House has a unique story because of the site and context of Manhattan’s West Chelsea neighborhood. West Chelsea is primarily a low-rise neighborhood, with a mixture of old industrial style buildings juxtaposed with edgy new development. The neighborhood is known for its industrial past, and thriving art gallery district. The Shutter House is located on a narrow lot on West 19th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. It is sandwiched between Frank Gehry’s IAC building to the west, and the Annabelle Serdof apartments to the east.[11] What began as a simple renovation turned into a larger project for a new building, as a result of the re-zoning proposal of West Chelsea and the High Line development.

When the High Line was repurposed as a park, much of West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District were re-zoned to create the Special West Chelsea District.[12] This new district was created in hopes to encourage significant economic and residential growth. The re-zoning was proposed in 2005, the same year Shigeru Ban was commissioned by art gallery owner, Klemens Gasser, for the project.[11]

Community District 4 was re-zoned, from West 30th Street to West 16th Street, between 10th and 11th Avenues. The re-zoning and creation of the Special West Chelsea District encouraged architects to design buildings that engaged and interacted with the new linear High Line pedestrian park. Adjacent developments to the High Line benefited from the creation of the High Line Transfer Corridor, or HLTC, which is intended to preserve light and air around the High Line.[13] The HLTC transfers development rights from the air space around the High Line to designated receiving properties within the Special West Chelsea District. This program allowed developers of selected sites to increase the floor area ratio, or FAR. The Shutter House directly benefited from this program, which influenced the client and architect to rebuild, rather than renovate on the site. The Shutter House is located in an area that was re-zoned to a C6-2 zoning, which increased the floor area ratio from 5.0 to a floor area ratio of 6.0.[14] This FAR bonus was instrumental in the overall design of the Shutter House, because without it, the project would not exist as it does today.

Form and Use[edit]

In plan and massing, the Shutter House addresses the challenges of building on a Manhattan city block. It sits tight on a building lot nestled between a large office building on one side, and apartment building on the other. The lot, a mere 50 feet wide, and 92 feet deep, faces north and south.[11] These tight lot dimensions, strict building regulations (including prohibition of lot line windows), and high property values inspired Ban not only to fill the lot footprint, but also to stack modular units vertically. This desire to build vertically was influenced also by the High Line Transfer Corridor program, as a result of the re-zoning of West Chelsea and the High Line development.[13] Together these two programs allocated bonus FAR to the site of the Shutter House, allowing for increased vertical expansion.

The building, eleven stories tall, is made up of eight duplex units, each with a double height living space. This living space is designed to make up for the shallow depth of the apartments, and to draw significant amounts of daylight into the space as a result of the tall glazing. The division into three bays in the vertical direction results in a variety of apartment layouts and provides each unit with street views and balconies enclosed on three sides. The duplex units range from three to four bedroom apartments, or in the case of the penthouse, a five-bedroom apartment. In each apartment, public spaces occupy the lower level, while private bedrooms and bathrooms are on the second level.[11] The design of the building also takes advantage of both northern and southern exposure, enhanced by the retractable perforated metal screens, and the glass garage-like doors that physically and visually open the apartments to the city.

In addition to the eight apartment units, the building also includes a ground floor gallery retail space, and lobby.[15] The inclusion of the retail gallery space is in accordance with the Special West Chelsea District program, which intends to distribute art galleries throughout West Chelsea, as opposed to confining them to the neighborhood center.[12]

Materials and Methods of Construction[edit]

The careful consideration and calibration of construction at the Shutter House maximized interior space on the limiting narrow lot. As mentioned above, each duplex unit was designed to include mezzanine levels, to maximize light penetration in the apartment. Shigeru Ban was also able to design 8-inch deep floor slabs, the minimal thickness required, in order to achieve the desired double-height space in each apartment. The minimized slabs also allowed Ban to slice the vertical volumes to get an even number of units stacked upon one another.[11]

The Shutter House gets its name from the metal screens, or “shutters”, incorporated into each unit, controlled by the tenant. Typically, similar elements were used throughout West Chelsea, for industrial warehouses. Ban’s Shutter House is the first instance where these screens are appropriated for domestic architecture. Contrary to intuitive site response, the perforated metal roll-up screens were installed on the north façade. The screens, in addition to allowing daylight into each apartment, also serve as a security feature providing privacy in an otherwise transparent space.[16] The screens, which are controlled by a motorized roller, are made of standard components. Each screen is 16 feet by 20 feet with a unique perforated pattern that complies with city regulations for facades enclosing habitable space.

In addition to using perforated metal screens as a façade system, Ban designed the glass façade behind them as a curtain wall system. The curtain wall incorporates glass bi-fold doors, supporting Ban’s design to open each apartment to the surrounding city context.[11] The windows of the curtain wall do not contain metal panes, as is typical for this type of system; but rather they incorporate double-glazed sashes and a hinge in the center. This assembly is controlled by a motorized component which forces the glass doors to open in a manner similar to that of a garage door.

On the interior, simplicity defines the architectural features. Translucent sliding doors allow for flexible space. The doors can be opened to create large public spaces, or closed to create smaller private spaces. The sliding partitions pay homage to Ban’s Japanese residential design. In the main public spaces, large panels conceal mechanical and plumbing elements.[17]


Although the Shutter House is not a LEED certified building, many sustainable features are incorporated into the design. The most sustainable element is manifested in the architect’s design thesis of opening traditional Manhattan living space to the surrounding city. The perforated metal shutters, controlled by the tenant to allow or block daylight in each double height space, along with the glass garage-like bifold doors, are designated green features.[17] The bifold doors, located on the southern façade, not only open the apartment to surrounding views, but also blur the boundary between interior and exterior to allow for natural air ventilation. Open facades on both the north and south sides of the Shutter House allow for daylight to be maximized in each apartment. The architectural and mechanical process of opening up to or closing off from fluctuating environmental conditions results in energy efficiency for each apartment.[18]

Another sustainable feature of the Shutter House is the building envelope. Each apartment has a partially enclosed terrace, separated from the living space by the perforated metal screens. Behind the retractable screens is an integrated curtain wall system. The curtain wall shields the apartment dwellers from unwanted elements like rainwater, drafts, and noise.[19]


The Shutter House, through its innovation and its relationship to context, completely transformed the physical reality of high-end residential architecture on a typical New York City building lot. Although the project was originally intended to be a renovation, Shigeru Ban’s architectural design turned into a new construction project because of strong connections to the Chelsea neighborhood, as a result of the High Line development, and the rezoning project that commenced in 2005.[20]

Architect Shigeru Ban challenges the idea of a typical New York apartment, and reconfigures it to reflect the growing surrounding city. Apartments are opened up to the immediate neighborhood, both physically and symbolically, through the implementation of a curtain wall system, and the perforated metal screens from which the Shutter House gets its name. In addition to revitalizing residential architecture in lower Manhattan, the Shutter House also helped to strengthen a thriving art community by incorporating a gallery on the first floor. In conclusion, the Shutter House sets a precedent for architecture as it relates to natural and urban environments, as the architect challenges conventional residential design in an expanding and flourishing post-industrial neighborhood in Lower Manhattan.


  1. ^ “The Metal Shutter House”
  2. ^ “Metal Shutter Houses”, Naomi R. Pollock,
  3. ^ “Neighborhood Info”
  4. ^ “High Line History”. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-08-05. Retrieved 2009-08-02. 
  5. ^ “West Chelsea Zoning Proposal”
  6. ^ “Profile—Shigeru Ban”.
  7. ^ Voluntary Architects Network: Making Architecture, Nurturing People: From Rwanda to Haiti. Ban, Shigeru. Tokyo, Japan. INAX Publishing, 2010. (page 5).
  8. ^ “Shigeru Ban on Designing Shelters for the Quake Victims”. Lasky, Julie. New York Times. March 23, 2011.
  9. ^ “Make It Right”. Voluntary Architects Network: Making Architecture, Nurturing People: From Rwanda to Haiti. Ban, Shigeru. Tokyo, Japan. INAX Publishing, 2010. (page 136).
  10. ^ “Works”
  11. ^ a b c d e f “Metal Shutter Houses; Shigeru Ban” Pollock, Naomi R. Architectural Record. September 2011.
  12. ^ a b “West Chelsea Zoning Proposal: Introduction”.
  13. ^ a b “West Chelsea Zoning Proposal: Proposal”.
  14. ^ “West Chelsea Zoning Proposal: Proposal”.
  15. ^ “The Metal Shutter House”. Archicentral. February 2009.
  16. ^ “Metal Shutter House”.
  17. ^ a b “Metal Shutter Houses; Shigeru Ban”. Pollock, Naomi R. Architectural Record. September 2011.
  18. ^ “Shigeru Ban’s Efficient, Metal Shutter Houses”. Michler, Adam. Inhabitat. 29 July 2010.
  19. ^ “Metal Shutter Houses; Shigeru Ban”. Pollock, Naomi R. Architectural Record. September 2011.
  20. ^ “West Chelsea Zoning Proposal: Introduction”.

Coordinates: 40°44′44.25″N 74°0′26.55″W / 40.7456250°N 74.0073750°W / 40.7456250; -74.0073750