The Office of Alexandr Neratoff, Architect, was founded on April 1st, 1980. Alexandr Neratoff is a registered architect, and holds New York State License # 014639, as well as license # 08753 for the State of Connecticut. Mr. Neratoff received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning (Class of 1975), and is a member of the AIA, New York Chapter.
Alexandr Neratoff’s practice is mostly devoted to residential work in and around the New York City area. Mr. Neratoff has designed private houses in New York City, in Connecticut and in Europe, and major interior renovations and enlargements of residential apartments and residential lofts. Mr. Neratoff has also designed commercial offices, custom furniture and furnishings.
A large portion of Mr. Neratoff’s practice involves New York City's Loft Buildings, including designing major renovations and enlargements of vacant loft buildings undergoing residential conversion as well as code-compliance legalization work under the Loft Law. A particular specialty is the addition of penthouses to loft buildings, something that Mr. Neratoff had been so successful at under the laws in effect in the 1990’s that the Department of City Planning chose to pass a zoning text change to limit the loophole he had used. Mr. Neratoff has also worked as architect for loft building co-ops, designed individual residential co-op lofts and acted as developer for two vacant loft building conversions and one tenant-sponsored acquisition. In his capacity as architect, he has dealt extensively with the Department of Buildings, the Department of City Planning, the New York City Loft Board, the Board of Standards and Appeals, the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the court system (as an expert witness).
In the 1990’s, Alexandr Neratoff shepherded hundreds of IMD loft tenants through the legalization and code compliance process of the first Loft Law, becoming the foremost expert in the loft field.
Alexandr Neratoff is a native New Yorker (b. 1952) who grew up among the Russian émigré community that settled here and in Paris after the Russian revolution. His primary education was French (Lycee Francais de New York). His architecture degree is from Cornell University, which he attended in the early 1970’s, the last decade of Colin Rowe’s residency (the influential British architectural theoretician who defined the concept of urban design). After Cornell, he worked as site architect for Alexander Solzhenitsyn on his compound in Vermont, and then for noted architect Peter Marino. His office (opened in 1980) continues a family tradition: his father was an Architect-Artist graduated from the St. Petersburg (Russia) Academy of Arts.
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Space is where we live, and I have focused my work on creating interior and exterior space, using proportions, light, sequence and hierarchy, imbuing these spaces we live and work in with qualities that encourage refection, creativity and harmony, and treating the surfaces that enclose and shape these spaces as just the means to the goal of improving the life of their occupants. One client told me that when he visits his apartment in New York that we designed, instead of taking advantage of all what New York has to offer, he stays home, enjoying the serenity of the spaces and sense of refuge that we created.
The focus on space makes the task of photographing my work quite challenging, just like shooting my favorite Baroque churches in Italy had me contorting on their floors and in their corners to get the right vantage point: space is experienced in three dimensions as well as in time, and the harder it is to depict it on film, the surer I am of the space’s success.
Each type of use, and each client’s life, has unique and less-than-obvious geometric and spatial rhythms. Converting industrial lofts to the residential uses these spaces were never intended to be involves discovering the points of coincidence between residential and former factory geometries: failure to do so produces the awkward ill-fitting results one often sees in developer-sponsored conversions around town. This process has offered me an understanding that clients’ needs and the geometry of the project’s context (whether it’s an existing apartment or house, or an urban or rural or even historical or cultural context, most often a mixture of all of these elements) have to be subjected to the same process of patiently looking for their points of coincidence, to achieve a harmonious and rewarding result.
Stravinsky has been quoted noting that a characteristic of St. Petersburg artists (in any media) is their facile treatment of “style”: it is merely a tool among others. I have inherited this attitude, and I do not espouse any specific architectural theory among what is offered by our cultural background: each situation, each project, can be addressed in the language chosen as most appropriate to the context. While some may consider using the cultural baggage of style as not of the moment, I find that modernism is just as much a part of our cultural language, perfectly suited for most modern settings but not where such an intrusion would upset a balance or where the architecture would more comfortably communicate in cultural symbols.
A sculptural and graphic exploration of the mystery and symbolism of mazes and labyrinths: using modern raw materials chosen for their simplicity, the work shown at the Barbara Braathen Gallery and in related photographs evokes themes of orientation/dislocation, expectation/disappointment, frustration/release, futility/purpose. The maze strips away all but the elemental functions of walls, space, and path, and is an integral part of man’s history.
From the 5th Century BC, when mazes first appeared on Cretan coins, associated with the legend of the Minotaur, and with the night-time path of the sun from west to east, mazes were puzzles with a multiplicity of choices and dead ends. In Christian times, they became a symbol for the path of life, the road to Jerusalem, and offered a single-minded solution, with no deviations. Since the 19th Century, the mythology has been eradicated and we are left with a game.
In this show of sculptures and drawings, Mr. Neratoff explores the remnants of the “emotional” mythology of the maze and our persistent subconscious fascination and relationship to them.
From exploration of the peculiarly American theme of multi-purpose objects, the “P” series of End Tables parallels Thomas Cole’s exploration of historic styles and their relationship to human characteristics. The Protector is a refrigerator and bar-b-q grille, built of common red brick and a concrete top, surrounded by rustic tree branch porticoes. The Purifier is a classic ionic temple generating filtered air from below its shiny white-painted wood columns. The Pacifier is a very heavy malachite and solid gold sculpted jewelry safe. The Protector is a blued steel and frosted glass intruder detection and alarm control cabinet. The Professor is an early home computer, communication and entertainment system.
The furniture designs addressed multiple functions or desires: lounging and cocktails, dining and jewelry display, seating and storage, modern transparency and oriental luxury. The couch reappears in the furniture section, in the art dealer’s apartment.
Triple Helix Project
This project was an exploration of an abstract concept, a chain of tetrahedrons that has an irrational cycle of rotation, literally invading a public space, the Arts Quadrangle at Cornell University, hovering above the natural landscape on minimal tetrahedron legs, and mystifying the pedestrians with a totally functionless interruption of practical circulation patterns. This project was done in the context of the 1972 Spring Arts Festival while the authors, Alexandr Neratoff and David Mitchell, were second-year students at Cornell University College of Architecture, Art and Planning, who appear in some of the photographs.
SoHo Tour 2011
In the early evening of June 29, I conducted an architectural/urban history tour of Soho, with a detour into art history as it intersected with urban development, to show how the disastrous practical effects of post-WW2 urban planning resulted in accidental events like Soho being created. We visited studios of three well-known and important artists who located in SoHo in 1960’s-1970’s, Alice Aycock, Michelle Stuart and Peter Reginato, to establish a connection to history and show that artists still take SoHo seriously. The tour was sponsored by a high-profile Russian magazine/media project (called SNOB, with irony of course), owned by Mikhail Prokhorov, the new owner of the Brooklyn Nets, a Russian mining oligarch also involved with Russian opposition politics.
SoHo became the prototypical area of former industrial buildings converted to mixed-use artists’ lofts and residences, that evolved into a fashionable mixed-use neighborhood that is an almost ideal demonstration of sustainability (re-used not reconstructed buildings), 24-hour use (requiring half the energy needed to power separate bedroom and office areas) and minimal-impact on infrastructure (reduced commuting, not needing two sets of streets, stores, police, sanitation, etc. entailed by the separation of living and working areas). It did not do so because of enlightened planning: this semi-abandoned neighborhood settled by artists, dancers and musicians attracted by cheap rents and huge spaces was slated for demolition to advance a misguided policy to transform NYC into an automobile-oriented urban core surrounded by newly built affordable suburbs. SoHo fought for its own survival, kick-starting the preservation, urban living, and sustainability movements. Mistakes the US made in the post-war are being repeated in Russia today – they are building highways, pushing suburban growth, and ignoring inner-city development besides the face-lifted “historic” city centers, demolishing former industrial structures or letting them rot. Yet in some rust-belt cities (or neighborhoods), visual and performance art is instigating limited examples of privately-funded revival. It is not too late for Russia to step back from the path we have given up on in the States – that is the point I was trying to make with Soho.
Velonight New York 2011
Press Release: New York to host the first ever VELONIGHT, on October 1 to October 2.
On the night of October 1, 2011, Manhattan will welcome its first ever exploration of postwar cultural and architectural history on bicycles – an urban expedition called “Velonotte NYC”. World-famous architects, architectural and cultural historians, including Rem Koolhas, Peter Eisenmann, Jean-Louis Cohen, Ken Jackson, Tony Fletcher and others, will narrate the moonlight bike tour that will take participants from the Guggenheim Museum to Downtown Manhattan, riding past icons (and failures) of New York’s architecture, urban policy and social/cultural life, culminating with a picnic at dawn on Pier 1 of the Brooklyn Bridge Park.
Velonotte events have already been successfully run in Rome, Moscow, Terni and St. Petersburg: the last such event in Moscow (2011) attracted 7,000 followers. This unprecedented architectural public education event has been conceived by the young Moscow architectural historian Sergey Nikitin, and is produced by his non-profit company Moskultprog in partnership with the Russian National Cycling Federation, in conjunction with Russian, US and international architects and cultural commentators, among them, Alexandr Neratoff, an architect living and working in SoHo since 1980.
La Citta Gallery Dinner 2012
Our loft-office sometimes turns into a ballroom or a banqueting hall, most recently for a dinner co-produced by Red Osmosis (Elena Siyanko) and Studio la Città (Verona, Italy) to celebrate their opening of An Italian perspective/Una prospettiva italiana, February 3-March 13, 2012 at the Howard Greenberg Gallery, 41 East 57th Street, New York.