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Dumbo House makes a home in Brooklyn

With incredible architecture and a rooted artistic community, the space above Cecconi’s DUMBO is perfect for our third House in New York, says Donatella Montrone

Brooklyn’s industrial past has gifted DUMBO, the area Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass, with some of the most unique architecture in New York City. Not least of these is Empire Stores at 53-83 Water Street. A stretch of seven continuous warehouses built along the East River just after the end of the Civil War, it is now home to Cecconi’s DUMBO and, from May, DUMBO House.

Members and guests already know the area as a creative neighbourhood that is home to many artists’ spaces, independent galleries, artisanal bakeries and tech startups, as well as St Ann’s Warehouse, an avant-garde theatre and performance space in the former Tobacco Warehouse.

One of the last surviving brick storehouses in Brooklyn, Empire Stores is now a 24-hour, mixed-use creative hub, with a steel and glass courtyard and public passage that connects its indoor marketplace to a community once separated from its waterfront. DUMBO House will take over its top two floors, above Cecconi’s and an exhibition space belonging to the Brooklyn Historical Society.

Features like 150-year-old iron shutters, timber columns, high-beamed ceilings, exposed brick and schist walls give the space a vibe all its own. And the creative neighbourhood couldn’t be better for Soho House, says local outreach membership manager Gia Villavicencio, who for the past nine months has been helping to grow the Brooklyn membership. Manhattan tends to be a transient place, she explains, so the Houses attract a greater number of Every House members. “DUMBO House has a more intimate feel. The membership will be built from people who live or work in the area – people who are truly vested in the neighbourhood.”

 Vittorio Viotti, general manager of Cecconi’s DUMBO, also noted a difference from his time at Cecconi’s West Hollywood. “As well as tourists, Cecconi’s DUMBO brings in a lot of local people who live within walking distance.”

 In a nod to the area’s artistic legacy and the space’s exceptional architecture, not least of which is an incomparable view of both Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge (two of New York City’s oldest suspension bridges), head of collections Kate Bryan has commissioned work themed around architecture. “What’s really striking about the Dumbo space is the views of Manhattan, so all the artwork will be architecture themed – either responses to architecture or actual architectural drawings. We haven’t had such a themed collection before, but it makes sense in a city that is really defined by its architectural landscape.”

Kate curated photos from the 1970s for the interior space, as well as actual blueprints, “including one by Sir David Adjaye who has just designed a building on Wall Street that will become part of the view”, she says. “If you look at the work of people like Thomas Heatherwick and Zaha Hadid, there’s so much fluidity between art forms: architecture, fine art, fashion.” 

 When the weather spikes above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the  rooftop pool will be a retreat for members needing respite from New York’s infernal summers. And with stunning views of Lower Manhattan as a backdrop, the House is a fitting addition to this eccentric neighbourhood, in the most populous borough of one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

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