Westbeth is a former commercial structure converted into housing for artists. It was conceived as an integrated, self-sufficient community that would provide the residents not only with loft space in which to live and work, but also with gallery space, theatrical facilities, and film, photography, and dance studios: in short, with a total environment in which to pursue their work, from conception to performance or display.
Occupying a city block at the west edge of Greenwich Village a few blocks south of Fourteenth Street, the buildings, originally Bell Laboratories, are an aggregate of thirteen massive steel-and-concrete structures, whose utilitarian form resembles that of many other such buildings in large cities throughout the United States.
The fireproof structure, built between 1889 and 1920, raises thirteen floors and affords over 600,000 square feet of floor space with high ceilings, large windows, and thick masonry walls. The building commands views on three sides: west to the Hudson River and north and south to upper and lower Manhattan.
A narrow existing courtyard is the organizational focus for the whole complex. By removal of a roof and two floors, this courtyard was opened to the sky. Semicircular steel balconies project from the apartments to provide additional egress from the duplex units and to engage the courtyard space. The main entrance to the building is located at one end of the courtyard. This entrance controls the public access to the structure.