Branko Potocnik of CetraRuddy was kind enough to speak with us about his work as Interior Architect on the firm's Hudson Green Project in Jersey City, NJ.
The two elegant 48-story blue glass buildings grace the Hudson River skyline like twin jewels that reflect both the water and the sky while harmoniously merging the natural elements together in a modern, urban landscape. These rental and condominium towers sit atop an 11-story commercial parking component and a lushly landscaped 35,000 square-foot amenities component with hotel-quality services. Branko Potocnik was responsible for designing the building's lobby and amenities space. A Grand Opening party was held in October, 2009, marking the official closing date.
Potocnik describes his design process and his choice of materials for the lobby in particular, which he successfully created as a space that, although sleek and modern in appearance, has a comfortable feel that is warm and inviting. Three main materials were used: stone, wood, and stainless steel. For the stone, he decided to use Glacier BlueTM Devonian Sandstone. Potocnik explains, "The moment I saw the stone, I said that's it. The moment I saw the stainless steel, I said that's it. I had a couple of options for the wood, and what we ended up using was teak. There is a blonde teak, a regular teak and I was also considering veneer, so there were a few options that I was considering. Selecting materials is a process. Sometimes it can be 'love at first sight' when you see something, but sometimes it needs more time. Sometimes when you have a base, like I had the stone and the stainless steel, then everything else has to work around that. So with the wood, the stone and with the stainless steel, there are three very distinctive materials in that space."
Glacier BlueTM Devonian Sandstone, which was used in the lobby, the sales center next to the lobby, and in the amenities space on the 11th floor, was selected mainly for its pale blue hue. "It's a beautiful building and basically the stone is picking up the colors from the building itself. The exterior of the building is a bluish-greenish glass, and in the lobby there is a very nice accent wall around the reception desk made of a bluish-greenish stainless steel which blends nicely with the whole building. Plus, the stone was my first choice from the beginning because the building is very close to the water and the stone gives us an opportunity to bring the color of the water into the space. It went along with the overall scheme of the building and my idea of connecting the space with the water, which is only a block away. So everything works together."
"The whole process starts with sketches where you're trying to work out functional requirements, and then at some point you're trying to bring into that some design, some aesthetics with all that you were initiated with. Then comes the selection of materials that you have in front of you. I think that the whole notion about this interior was basically water, and being warm. I was thinking of that kind of fluidity going through the space, and that fluidity is coming with a bluish sort of scheme. There is this big stainless steel element around the reception desk and then the stone that reinforces the whole thing."
"It's a very clean design, with a very sophisticated minimalist approach. For this particular project, we were fortunate to have high ceilings so the volume of the space is amazing and because of that grandeur and spaciousness, it can look like a gallery. On the south side of the lobby to the side of the reception desk there are three 8 x 14 foot art prints on the wall. On the opposite wall, the north wall, there is an over-scaled fireplace that gives a homey atmosphere, so as you enter the lobby you feel more like you're entering someone's living/library space more than just a lobby."
Turning the lobby into a more comfortable gathering space was an important objective for Potocnik, who explains, "People are gathering in the lobby, spending some time, they're not just passing by. So from the beginning that was some kind of notion for me that this should be more than just a lobby. It should be a gathering space where you feel comfortable, whether you're entering or exiting the building, that you sometimes would like to spend some time there without any reason, just sit there and maybe read. So it's a space that should be inviting, not just something that you pass by."
The choice of materials is a major factor in helping to create an atmosphere in a space, especially if it is a space that is meant to feel inviting and harmonious. "That includes lighting as well. Lighting is a very important element and I consider lighting to be a material. It has to work with everything that you have in a space. It can create moods. You can imagine turning the lights off in any interior and what you get is nothing. Turn on a red light and the whole interior completely changes. So it's very important how you approach lighting, on top of selecting all the other materials. If you are wrong with the color of the lighting, everything can go wrong. You read wood differently, you read stainless steel differently, you read it reflecting on a floor, and stone would look completely different with the wrong lighting. Plus, on top of everything, it has to be functional, and the best thing is if you walk through and you just enjoy the space. You don't know exactly why you're enjoying the space, but everything is right. Nothing bothers you, nothing is too much, everything is right."
"I would like to mention John Cetra, the Design Principal who designed the building, and Nancy Ruddy, the Principal in charge of interiors for the whole office. We, as a whole firm, had enormous support from the client, K. Hovnanian. From the beginning they were really completely, deeply dedicated to us and respectful to what we were offering to them. Our client was Tom Graham, who was a really unbelievable support. You rarely have that kind of nice, smooth, effortless relationship. Sometimes there is a struggle back and forth. This time was really great. You have to have that kind of support in order to build these kinds of things."