Long lacking in outside dining capabilities, NYC has undergone a radical transformation the last few months in order to accommodate the needs of bars and restaurants—and the safety and mental health of its residents. The latest destination to metamorphose parking spots into an elegant activation space, NeueHouse Madison Park looked to some of its own members, associates at Australian architectural and design firm BVN, for the modular system, Re-Ply, that now composes their new addition, The Longhouse. It’s more than an outdoor collaboration and hospitality space for the private community: it’s a demonstration of upcycled solutions for a city in need.
Roughly four years ago, BVN’s Nikita Notowidigdo and Nick Flutter shifted from the firm’s mothership in Australia to the fledgling NYC satellite office. Over the years, their work has stretched from towers to architectural workplace interiors. Their Re-Ply invention is at a much smaller scale than what they’re used to doing, but just as necessary.
“Several months ago, in New York City, everybody was boarding up their shops,” Flutter tells us. After internal dialogues, they decided to attempt to do something with all of the plywood that would ultimately get removed and be disposed of. “We asked people to donate their used plywood when they were taking it down and we collected it all with a U-Haul,” Flutter continues. More than 200 sheets of plywood were donated by Rockefeller Center alone, where BVN has since placed modular tables constructed from their own recycled barricades.
Notowidigdo’s relationships with (and personal interest in) the food world led to the idea of helping out restaurants as they struggled to adhere to the ever-evolving CDC and Department of Transportation (DoT) guidelines. She began to call industry friends—a move that led to their pilot run at Wayan. “We built all that furniture ourselves, out in the streets of the West Village, in front of Nikita’s apartment,” Flutter says. Wayan was such a success (and with such a tight deadline), that they become great advocates for BVN and Re-Ply. And in the midst of it all, the DOT regulations changed and BVN realized their idea didn’t have a months-long shelf life, but would be useful all year.
With NeueHouse, Notowidigdo and Flutter brought their modular concept and began to tweak it with the creative destination’s internal design team—even taking further inspiration from the adjacent Armory. “It’s really designed around a standard platform module—where we have a corner at the end, which is a bench seat, and then these movable seats you can plug in and out if you want them.” The Longhouse design is accented with custom upholstery and fabrics from Kvadrat. NeueHouse member Lily Kwong Studio contributed elegant landscaping, too.
“We are so pleased with what we have created with long-standing NeueHouse members BVN with The Longhouse,” Josh Wyatt, the CEO of NeueHouse, tells us. “We felt the current times called for a shake-up of how traditional spaces function combined with signaling to our member community and NYC neighborhood that NeueHouse stands for bringing people together under a warm, inclusive space. Creating emotionally welcoming spaces is now, more than ever, essential.”
Wyatt adds, “The structure of The Longhouse itself was intentionally designed to accommodate multiple forms of gathering by the use of modular furniture and flexible layouts. The outdoor experience alone breaks down the walls of an enclosed space, exposing our community and live activations for public view—ultimately democratizing creative ideas, collaboration and sharing among a wider community.”
At present, The Longhouse will be open through the end of December—though it could be extended into the new year. As for BVN, they’re already finding more applications for Re-Ply in the city. And both Notowidigdo and Flutter are quick to mention that none of it would be possible with millwork from Bestmark National and fabrication at Bed-Stuy-based Deep Cuts Fabrication. They’re also only looking to cover their costs. “Our overall goal is to give some portion of our profits to a charity we selected,” Flutter says. It’s called Children of Promise and its mission is to look after the children of incarcerated individuals—and as with their fabricators, the charity is based in Bed-Stuy, too.
Hero image courtesy of Ernesto Roman