These architects dominate BK and Queens resi development

TRD ranks top firms for residential buildings since 2010

<em>From left: 28-10 Jackson Avenue, 333 Schermerhorn Street, 1134 Fulton Street and 22-44 Jackson Avenue (inset from left: Richard Dattner, Eran Chen Guy Geier and Karl Fischer)</em>
From left: 28-10 Jackson Avenue, 333 Schermerhorn Street, 1134 Fulton Street and 22-44 Jackson Avenue (inset from left: Richard Dattner, Eran Chen Guy Geier and Karl Fischer)

The most active architect in Brooklyn also happens to be one of its most criticized.

Karl Fischer was the architect behind 44 new residential projects proposed from November 2010, making him the borough’s most prolific during that time period, according to an analysis by The Real Deal.

He also made the top 20 list for architects in Queens, with only 256 units across four projects. The ubiquity of his designs, in Brooklyn in particular, has drawn the ire of the real estate community over the last few years, the most extreme case being in 2011, when the New York Post referred to him as “New York’s most loathed architect.” He has been criticized for sacrificing aesthetics for the whims of developers, who are drawn by his ability to work quickly and inexpensively.

For his part, Fischer isn’t too bothered by the haters: He isn’t thrilled by the criticism, but he says it’s subjective.

“You look at negative criticism, and you try to learn from it and move on,” he said. “When I get the criticism, I look at the building, and I think, ‘Did I do the best I could do?’ and sometimes the answer is no, but most of the time the answer is yes.”

Brooklyn’s top residential architects

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He said the final design of a building is often dictated by the market, the developer and what marketing teams think will sell, which is why many of his earlier projects in the city were of the “modern” glassy ilk. He said people often don’t understand how a building has evolved.

“People look at a building as a finished product, and it’s easy to criticize,” he said.

In both Brooklyn and Queens, the project volume of the boroughs’ top architects predictably pales when compared to Manhattan. Fischer was the architect for 44 projects in Brooklyn that had a total of 3,186 units — the largest number of any architect involved in residential developments in the borough since 2010. Meanwhile, SLCE Architects was the most active architect in Manhattan during the same time frame with 6,646 units across 27 projects, though the firm often works in tandem with other architects.

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Top residential architects in Queens

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SLCE was also the most prolific architect in Queens, working as the design architect or architect of record on five projects with a total of 3,985 units, according to TRD’s analysis. Goldstein, Hill & West, a firm based in Lower Manhattan, ranked second on the list in both Manhattan and Queens — and 15th in Brooklyn. In Queens, the firm was named on new-building plans as the architect or the architect of record for four projects with a total of 2,411 units. The firm’s top project is a mixed-use development planned by Tishman Speyer and H&R Real Estate Investment Trust for Long Island City, which consists of 1,789 rental units across three towers at 28-34 Jackson Avenue, 28-10 Jackson Avenue and 30-02 Queens Boulevard.

Stephen Hill, principal at GHW, said that the six-year-old firm primarily works in Manhattan, but that the lure of Long Island City as a cheaper residential alternative — with a quick commute to Midtown — has led the firm across the East River. Hill said that 15 to 20 percent of the firm’s work — in terms of units — is the product of collaborative work. In general, he expects more projects will be joint ventures in the vein of SLCE’s partnerships.

“As more starchitects get into residential work, they need to be paired with an architect that has done that work,” he said. “It’s definitely a growing segment of business.”

Fischer said that, as a rule, he doesn’t take on projects where his firm will only be the architect of record.

“What interests me in architecture is being able to create buildings from scratch,” he said. “You create something that is meant to be on the site.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the architect of 532 Neptune Avenue. S9 Architecture is designing the rental tower.