Nicholas Liberis and Yohay Albo first met in 2008, when they worked as co-consultants on an architectural project. Since coming together as Brooklyn architecture and urbanism firm Albo Liberis, they have shaped some of Williamsburg’s most talked-about structures, including The William Vale hotel and Hotel Williamsburg.
We spoke with Yohay and Nicholas about their goals of impacting Williamsburg’s landscape, as well as their architectural dreams that stretch beyond NYC.
Brooklyn Magazine: What sort of impact did you hope to have on Williamsburg with The William Vale hotel?
Yohay Albo: The William Vale was really an amazing, organic project. If you actually break it down, you begin to realize, these are really different forms. A lot of times the beauty is much greater in the context of the multiples coming together. Williamsburg is a composite of people, and it is still defining itself. We said, “Bring it in.”
A lot of the tendency in Brooklyn is to reproduce manufacturing buildings. A lot of times when we try to echo these buildings, it becomes nostalgic of a quality that we’ve never been able to recreate. We needed to also introduce something new and fresh in the space that was an exciting counterpoint.
Nicholas Liberis: It seems very cynical and possibly jaded just to keep spitting out the same stuff over and over again.
BK: What are your favorite buildings in the world?
NL: There are so many.
YA: Whether it’s a building like the Louis Kahn Exeter Library or a Renzo Piano Museum, they’re all beautiful responses and answers to the specific thing they had to design, so it’s really hard. If it’s emotionally, then the house I grew up in. If it’s in terms of what architecture is about, there are many great examples of remarkable pieces of architecture that influenced us.
NL: Something that pops into my head is this Chinese garden in Suzhou, the Master of Nets Garden, which is an iconic 19th-century masterpiece of landscape villa design. That for me is especially fine.
BK: What sorts of trends do you see happening in Brooklyn architecturally over the next 10 or 15 years?
NL: I think there’s going to be a lot of adaptive reuse.There are a lot of really good buildings out there still. I think there will be dual motion away and up from the shoreline. People are also going to retreat, because what I think you’re going to see is that it’s going to be harder and harder to get insurance.
BK: What would be your dream project?
YA: Our dream project I think would be to be able to take an area in a much greater context and try to develop it in the sense of a neighborhood, the people, the society and so forth—we really would like to see something like The William Vale on a greater scale. You start integrating and weaving a real fabric of a city. People want to be able to go to sleep upstairs, go to work downstairs and pick up their coffee across the street.
BK: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you and what you’re doing?
NL: We are both devastatingly good-looking people—much better looking than what the website shows.
YA: With every project we do, we hope that something gets added and not taken away. We hope that we add a little bit better quality and that the people that live and work in the building really feel good about the spaces that they’re in.
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