Helpern Architects

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For its 2015 greeting card, Helpern Architects has picked the building with the ultimate New York address: “212.”

In 2014, when repeat client Madison Equities purchased the empty 24-story building at 212 Fifth Avenue opposite Madison Square Park, it was natural for them to turn again to Helpern Architects. Earlier projects together had been new residential buildings, notably one near Gramercy Park and others in a way-West Village assemblage slated for a hotel and townhouses.

212’s history, long before there was a landmarked Madison Square North, or NoMad, Historic District, included a range of major wholesalers. Robert Gladstone’s organization wanted to convert the 200,000-sf building, which Schwartz & Gross Architects had designed in 1913, into 48 grand residences, including two penthouses. And since Helpern Architects’ stock-in-trade has been transforming buildings to new life and sometimes also a new purpose, this fast-track project quickly got underway.

“Restoring and converting 212 Fifth Avenue turned out to be more challenging than anyone expected,” relates David Paul Helpern, FAIA, principal in charge of the nearly complete [and successful] project. “Creating this year’s holiday card, by contrast, was a straight path. We decided to feature the parapet along the West 26th Street long side of the rhomboid-shaped structure, because it took such intricacy to replace it almost entirely and the results are so visually exciting. Truth to tell, the card is less detailed than the exhaustive information that had to appear on our construction documents. “

The Helpern team included Senior Associate Don Lasker as Senior Project Manager and Amauri Guilllen as Project Manager. Gideon Kipperman is Senior Architect, Karlo Rosete is Project Architect, and Joshua Klevorn is Architectural Designer.

Once again, Whitehouse & Company designed the card. The 8”X5.75” [when flat] fold-out card is printed as always on 110-lb. silk cover stock, according to Ben Whitehouse. “We used Wedgwood blue tones for the sky, base of the card, and inside, with a light rose to indicate a lovely New York twilight sky. The buff tones of the stone match the limestone and brick masonry and are lighter and brighter where 212’s new uplighting illuminates the terracotta features of the upper floors,” he describes.

“This is No. 34,” reports Principal Bennet Dunkley, principal in charge of client development. “Last year, we featured Pratt Institute’s Main Building, which we restored after it had suffered a severe fire. In recent years, we selected the restoration of the Nave of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, Ft. Washington Collegiate Church’s expansion, the new West 33rd Street Marriott/Fairfield Inn & Suites, and the renovation of the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library. Half of them involved new construction, half are considered renovations; except for St. Agnes, a public building, the others are owned privately.”

What will be No. 35? “We’re thinking our new hotel in the Times Square area, but its European brand is still confidential,” Bennet says. “There’s also a suburban New England office building that could be a great card, too, but that’s also confidential. Time will tell. We don’t factor in whether a project will make a great card when we decide to undertake a project, but I admit we think about whether the new assignment could be the next card.”