leroy street studio architecture
new york city

Morgan Hare, LEED AP, grew up in the Leroy Street brownstone from which he and Marc Turkel, AIA, LEED AP, co-founded their design/build firm in 1995. The space held many memories, but by 2000 it couldn't contain their burgeoning office, so they found a new home—and fresh inspiration—in nearby Chinatown.

“People talk about choosing their neighborhood, but for us, it was an accident of fate,” Turkel says. The 5,600-square-foot building they targeted “wasn't where you'd expect to find a design firm,” but it offered Leroy Street Studio (LSS) a chance “to rip a building apart and discover its potential.” Another compelling opportunity sat just across Hester Street, Hare adds—a school “that looked like it needed some help.” The pro bono work LSS did for M.S. 131 in 2001 (while transforming its new digs at just $36 per square foot) led them to create the nonprofit Hester Street Collaborative (HSC), which works with the community and students to improve public spaces and teach design skills.

Turkel says the relationship between the ventures “is made manifest in the building we occupy.” HSC and a shared workshop are on the ground floor, and 23 LSS staffers (including partner Shawn Watts, LEED AP) utilize the top two floors. “Moving to this neighborhood, we didn't want to make an office that looks like every other firm's office,” Turkel says of the light-filled studio's open, nonhierarchical floor plan. “The idea is that you can make anything, anywhere. There's no office to it.”