Designing Actively

ESKW/A is very proud to see our collaborative project with Dattner Architects, the New Settlement Community Center, featured on the Center for Active Design’s website as a case study of architecture designed with the intention of actively engaging its occupants both physically and intellectually.

Check out the feature here!

Also, we encourage you to follow NSCC on Facebook to see how fully they use the center and school for their many community programs including swimming, yoga, dance, and more.

Shelter Skelter: A Presentation by Bronx High School Students on Homelessness in NYC

ESKW_Shelter Skelter

Marcella, Martin, and Melissa of ESKW/A

Our recently completed 4380 Bronx Boulevard along with current shelter projects at 233 Landing Road, 2570 Fulton, 91 Pitt, 149 W 132, and 8 E 3rd Street, have us thinking about the public perception of shelters and the homeless.  Last Wednesday several of us from ESKW/A trouped up to the Bronx Museum to attend and show support for a student presentation on the culmination of a summer spent investigating the ins and outs of the shelter system in NYC.  CUP, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and the College Now program of Hostos Community College brought in teaching artist Patrick Rowe to work with the teens throughout the project and teach them to funnel their newfound knowledge into a visual form (poster shown below).

The students conducted numerous interviews with city council members, the NYC Department of Homeless Services, community board members, and individuals directly associated with local shelters.  They also visited a non-profit shelter as well as Picture the Homeless and garnered a better understanding of the system as seen from the inside.

In the resultant presentation, the class was careful to show both sides of the arguments for and against the types and locations of shelters.  Many members of the audience were surprised to learn that shelters are not evenly distributed over the boroughs but rather are quite concentrated in the Bronx.  “We like to keep families applying to shelters close to their support systems, their children’s school, and to their last known address,” said Lisa Black of the NYC Department of Homeless Services.  Even with the large number of shelters within the borough, however, they fill up and people can sometimes be relocated across the city.  As one student explained, “Let’s say you’re from here [the Bronx], but let’s say all the shelters in the Bronx are full—then they will end up moving to the next closest shelters, which could be in Brooklyn or could be far away, like Staten Island.  From that standpoint, you’re taking me away from my home, from people I grew up with, where I’m very comfortable.”

ESKW Shelter Skelter

The Shelter Skelter poster

No discussion of the shelter system can go without touching on the concept of NIMBY, and the class addressed this as well.  In his interview with the students, Sam Miller of Picture the Homeless explained, “The Bronx is one of the areas that sends the most families into the shelter system.  Many times when communities in the Bronx oppose a shelter, they’re opposed to their own neighbors who’ve been driven out by rising rents.”

It was gratifying to hear that on an individual level many of the students felt that their eyes had been opened and their assumptions challenged.  As one teen told the audience: “We were asked the question, ‘Who do you think these people are?  Where do you think they come from?’ and unfortunately I had a very low opinion of them.  To be honest, the only homeless people I saw were basically crazy people, drunks, drug addicts, people that didn’t really cause me to think about this issue.  But as the program went on and as we did our visits, and especially when we went to meet some people from Picture the Homeless, they opened my eyes.  Talking to one of the men there taught me through the way that he spoke that not all homeless people are drug addicts, etc.  I hope one day to be as smart as him.”  Her sentiment was common amongst her classmates, many of whom echoed the assertion that their preconceived notions about the system and especially the shelter inhabitants had been turned around.  These students will undoubtedly continue to spread their new knowledge within their neighborhoods, raising awareness and altering the prejudices of those around them.  The presentation may have focused on a serious problem faced by our community, but thanks to the students’ enthusiasm the tone of the evening was distinctly hopeful.

 

 

Meet Mike, Melissa, Marcella, and Amanda

ESKW is pleased to announce the addition of four new team members this month!  Below, we invite you to get to know them through some brief ‘welcome to the team’ interviews.


ESKW_MikeOng

Mike Ong

Mike

ESKW: So where are you from?

Mike: Born here, in Chinatown, raised in Queens.

ESKW: What was the first album you owned?

Mike: Oh god.  It was rap.  Notorious BIG.  Ready to Die was the album.

ESKW: What was your dream job when you were a kid?

Mike: It’s funny, if you think like kid, kid?  Before a kid that knows what a profession is?  It was actually a knight.  I thought they were the coolest thing.  You know, what they stood for.

ESKW: What spaces or buildings in NYC inspire you?

Mike: Waterfront areas — I gravitate to those spaces more.  And especially there because you get to see Manhattan skyline.

ESKW: What might you be found doing on weekends?

Mike:  Oh that’s easy, basketball.  Otherwise I’m doing some martial arts training.  Kung Fu.  Specifically Shao Lin.

ESKW: Would you be interested in leading the office in some martial arts mini-training classes?

ESKW Mike Ong

Mike: Haha sure! That sounds like it could be fun.  I’m a believer that the more you are engaged physically the better your mind functions.  One important note: my experience and training has been more about physical conditioning and less about self-defense.  For me it’s a physical form of meditation.  So a mini-training class would have that approach and not really “how do I break out of a choke hold” scenarios.

ESKW: We promise to be meditative and respectful, as long as you respect our right to wear neon spandex and blast ‘the eye of the tiger’ throughout.

Mike: [Laughing]  Yes all colors are welcome!  And I’m a big Rocky fan too.

ESKW: If you had to pick a project that you’ve worked on, academically or professionally, to live in for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Mike: It’s actually a studio project that I did.  And it ties back to my martial arts training, so for my final project there was this abandoned church that we had to renovate, and a sort of quarry not too far away.  For me it became this martial arts retreat center, where you’re in the quarry or up in this temple and there’s all these training spaces—it became an obstacle course kind of thing.


ESKW_MelissaRouse

Melissa Rouse

Melissa

ESKW: So where are you from?

Melissa: Outside of Atlanta, I guess I would say.  That’s where my parents are.

ESKW: What might you be found doing on weekends?

Melissa: I spend a lot of time with my friends on weekends.  Right now I try to be outside a lot, rooftopping.

ESKW: What was your dream job when you were a kid?

Melissa:  I remember when I was super little I said I wanted to be an exercise instructor.

ESKW: [Laughing] Well that can be your retirement plan.

Melissa:  [Laughing] Yeah.

ESKW: When the going gets tough, what’s blasting in your headphones?

Melissa:  I have different music for daytime and nighttime.   I really like The Format, which no longer exists — it’s the guy from Fun.  And the Decemberists, too.

ESKW: So what inspired you to be an architect?

Melissa_ESKWMelissa: Well we traveled a lot when I was growing up.  We lived in Germany for three years and we did a lot of traveling during that time, so just looking at all the different styles I guess peaked my interest in design.

ESKW: What spaces or buildings in NYC inspire you?

Melissa: There’s a SHOP building in Meatpacking that I really like.  It’s the one where they did an addition on top of it – the Porter House.  And I spend a lot of time on the waterfront, on the west side.  I really like that, the outdoor space there.


ESKW_MarcellaYee

Marcella Yee

Marcella

ESKW: Where did you grow up?

Marcella: I grew up in California in the Bay Area.  I think I grew up with a big sense of place.  I really liked going to parks with my cousins or going and seeing new places and my parents would always bring me to museums and we traveled a lot.  It was important to my parents to go around and see a lot of culture and I think noticing that helped influence me and noticing how that shaped the community.  And that’s really important to architecture too.

ESKW: What spaces or buildings in NYC inspire you?

Marcella: More the spaces.  New York has really great parks.  One of my favorite places to go is Governor’s Island.

ESKW: When you researched this firm before applying, what was your impression of ESKW/A?

Marcella: Just from the website and the statement of purpose that the firm stands for, I thought ‘Oh man, this firm is really dedicated to the New York community.’  And then I found the blog and you get a better sense of how the office culture is and you can just tell that they are probably the friendliest bunch of people you’ll ever meet!

ESKW: If you had to pick a project that you’ve worked on, academically or professionally, to live in for the rest of your life, what would it be?

MarcellaMarcella: This was a first year project, so I didn’t know what I was doing yet and I was a lot more free with it …  the things that I could just do.  Our project was in these hills on a site near our school, and the school is placed in this really scenic coastal city in California.  I did this all glass building and I put a waterfall that flowed from the second story to the first story.  Yeah, I would live in that building.


ESKW_AmandaRoyaleSengstacken

Amanda Royale Sengstacken

Amanda

ESKW: Where are you from?

Amanda: New York State – Rockland County.  In the city we call it ‘upstate’ but honestly it’s about as far ‘downstate’ as you can go before you’re in Manhattan so that always irks me.  So I’m from ‘downstate NY’.

ESKW: What might you be found doing on weekends?

Amanda: I go indoor rock climbing most weekends.  I’m also trying to take advantage of the weather and work on biking in the city.  I just learned how to ride a couple years ago so I have a long way to go.  But I maintain hope that I’ll manage to bike to work at least a few times this year.

ESKW: What spaces or buildings in NYC inspire you?

AmandaAmanda: I will never stop having a sense of joy and wonderment when I ride over a bridge at night and look back at the city.  And its reflection on the water.  It’s lucky we have the smog; if there were stars too I couldn’t handle it.  I feel that sense of ownership that all New Yorkers do, and maybe more because I grew up nearby – NY was always just The City.

ESKW: If you had to pick a project that you’ve worked on, academically or professionally, to live in for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Amanda: I did this museum for my 5th semester studio, in Italy on a steep hill, and the studio was all about interpreting the way fabric can be manipulated to create structure.  I came up with this translucent, vaulted, pleated museum twisting down the hill, totally impossible of course, but I wish I could walk through it.  Assuming we wouldn’t all be fried like ants under a magnifying glass inside.

Welcome to Oz


Oz Public Interest Design 2014

If you read the Kansas State University College of Architecture and Design’s annual periodical, then you may have noticed that the most recent publication focused on public interest design, and contained a piece from ESWK/A’s own Kimberly Murphy and Claire Webb.

We were honored to contribute, but more importantly we were excited to read what our fellow contributors had to say.  As John Cary (founding executive director of the Autodesk Impact Design Foundation and founding editor of PublicInterestDesign.org) pointed out in his prologue to the publication, “We need to think much bigger, dig much deeper, and build cross-sector partnerships much more aggressively to even start to address the extraordinary needs of our time.”

Call it competition or call it inspiration, it’s undeniable that architects’ creativity feeds off of one another.  No man—and especially no architect—is an island.  This is especially true in such cases as ours, in which we are a part of an arguable fledgling field of design (the public interest realm), where reflection on one another’s work is crucial.

The periodical featured the following design firms, nonprofits, and public design oriented companies, and we encourage anyone with an interest in this field to check them out:

MASS Design Group, Tulane City Center, SHED Studio, Rebuild Sudan, Architecture for Humanity, Design Corps, and JSa Arquitectura.

While the publication is not available to be viewed online, it can be purchased here.

Our own contribution is visually summarized for your enjoyment below.

Building Blocks of Inspiration: the BRC Gala

ESKW Kerry back

Earlier this month we were happy to announce our upcoming partnership with the Bowery Residents’ Committee in their revolutionary proposed housing endeavor, Landing Road.  Now, as the initial zoning and feasibility studies are complete, it’s time for Project Manager Kimberly Murphy and her team to look for the sources of inspiration that will drive the design of this project forward.  And inspiration is in no short supply.

Kimberly describes the uplifting event – the BRC fundraising Gala in June – that kicked off the project initially:

“The Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) held their annual fundraising Gala at the Mondrian Hotel on Columbus Circle. Andrew, Randy, Kimberly, Kerry, and Martin were pleased to support BRC and represent ESKW/A at the event. Emcee Robert Kind (actor from Curb your Enthusiasm and Spin City) shared his dilemma when faced with homeless persons he encounters on the street with his children because he didn’t want to just give a hand out. His dilemma was solved when he met BRC because he learned how to give a hand up, not just a hand out.

“A beautifully created short film featuring one of BRC’s clients told the story of just one of the many homeless helped by BRC and made the point that all homeless have a story to tell if you’re willing to listen. Garland was a special guest at the Gala and was proud to share his journey with all the supporters of the organization.

“Muzzy Rosenblatt, CEO of BRC, thanked all the supporters and described the challenge faced by BRC’s formerly homeless clients: affordable housing. Graduates from BRC have done everything they are supposed to do: they are clean, they have jobs (although low-paying), and they are off the streets. However they can’t afford to live in this city. Enter BRC’s newest project: Project Hope. Located on Landing Road in the Bronx, this new building will provide not only 200 beds and support services to the homeless, but in an innovative model set forth by Mayor Bill De Blasio, the building will also provide affordable housing which will assist in funding the shelter on the ground floor.ESKW Kimberly front

“ESKW/A was thrilled to be selected as the architect for the project. Muzzy explained that all but $200,000 has been raised to purchase the site and called on attendees to pony up and donate the balance. And on the spot he was able to raise the remaining funds for Landing Road.

“It was a stellar evening of support for an organization we are proud to be connected to. The view from the 35th floor overlooking Columbus Circle wasn’t too shabby either. You know it was an impressive night of fund raising when we recall all of these wonderful details with the distraction of the Lego building block door prizes sitting in front of us. You can’t expect Architects to pay much attention to the program when you put Legos in front of them, so well done, BRC!”

 

ESKW Architects Group shot

The ESKW representatives at the Gala.  From the left: Randy Wood, Martin Galindez, Kimberly Murphy, Kerry Zucker, and Andrew Knox

Update on 535 E. 11th St.

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The Mary Spink House on 535 East 11th Street is nearing completion. The project is sponsored by the Lower East Side People’s Mutual Housing and is roughly 80% complete. The finishes are going in and façade is almost completed; the street-level storefront is being installed which opens onto the building’s Community Room. There is a through-building passageway connecting East 11st St. and the Joseph Sauer Park which will be accessible to both the residents and the general public. Masonry openings on the gray brick façade continue the rhythm of the adjacent street facades and fire escapes. The gray and yellow color scheme is continued boldly at the rear of the building and throughout the interior. This building will provide 46 units of supportive and affordable housing to low-income, formerly homeless, and mentally disabled members of the East Village community. Stay tuned for more updates.