Congratulations to Sister Tesa on Winning the 2014 Opus Prize!

OpusPrize

The Opus Prize is a prestigious international prize awarded annually to organizations that demonstrate outstanding faith-based humanitarian work.  We at ESKW/A were utterly thrilled to find out that this year’s $1 million first prize recipient is none other than Sister Tesa Fitzgerald of Hour Children.   We are honored to be the architects for both the rehabilitation of Hour Apartment House II and the new design and construction of Hour Apartment House III, two of Sister Tesa’s extremely successful housing programs.  In her acceptance of the prize, Sister Tesa announced that the award money would go towards site acquisition to create more housing, which she said is desperately needed. Sister Tesa was also a subject of the recent non-fiction book If Nuns Ruled the World by Jo Piazza, which we highly recommend. She’s a hero and an inspiration.

Congratulations, Sister Tesa and Hour Children!

For past coverage of this amazing woman’s accomplishments, please see our post about her feature in the NYTimes, and read about the ribbon cutting ceremony at Hour Apartment House III.

Judith Edelman (1923-2014)

Judy had such an indelible spirit that her passing has come as a shock for us at ESKW/A.  Deeply committed, wonderfully irascible, and extraordinarily talented, she created and maintained a strong identity for this firm that continued throughout her retirement and will continue into the future, well after her passing.

ESKW/A offers a few images below that illustrate the Judy that we knew.  In the coming months, we will provide information and updates about the organization of memorial services that will be open to the public.  We also encourage you to read the interview she gave on this blog 2 years ago, as well as these outstanding pieces in the NYTimes and in Contract Magazine.

Pool Party: Renovating the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club

ESKWA Madison Pool 1

Not long ago, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club reached out for a redesign of their indoor community pool at the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse, in Flatbush, Brooklyn.  The existing natatorium is original to the 1920’s building and is in need of an update – including re-shaping and re-finishing the pool, renovation of the girls’ locker rooms, and providing a lobby for spectators.

ESKW/A render and plan

ESKW/A render and plan

Inspired by both the historic nature of the building and the work of the Club, we aimed to blend traditional and modern design influences, and most of all to showcase the heart of the Club – the kids themselves.  Our design includes a monochromatic glass tile mosaic commencing in the Pool Lobby and extending 90’ along the length of the pool room which would depict underwater swimming children. To that end, the Club along with Owner’s Representative LOM Properties organized a photoshoot with New York photographer Hatim, using 2 swim teams of about 30 children altogether. The images of the children will be used in the mosaic truly capturing the motion of the club kids for posterity in the pool room.

Annie Kountz, Project Architect, describes the experience:

The Boys & Girls Club is such an inspiring place. It provides both a haven and a fun place for kids. The skills and confidence that they gain by learning to swim or play basketball enhances their lives, and sets up good healthy life skills for the future, too.

I think what is so special about Madison is that it believes in the inherent goodness in everyone. It believes that ALL kids, no matter what their race, religion, or creed, deserve the opportunities to reach their full potential. The Club provides classes in art, fitness, recreation, health, leadership, parenting, and life skills.  Madison gives thousands of kids a place to go after school. It provides a safe place to learn and grow.  It gives positive adult role models, and most of all I think it gives hope and opportunity.

The project has been meaningful to me personally because I was a Boys & Girls Club kid.  I loved it! I played in Boys & Girls Clubs basketball leagues for years. It wasn’t just an alternative to daycare to keep me busy while my dad worked multiple jobs—it taught me about perseverance and hard work and it gave me lifelong friends.

The Boys & Girls Club in general is such an amazing organization, but what I think makes the pool renovation particularly special is the giant mosaic. The kids were so, so excited about it!  It must mean so much to them that THEY are on the WALL! The kiddos will be edified on a GIANT 10’x100’ wall.  We went through loads of iterations for the tile and wall designs.  For a while we considered a giant Olympic swimmer, but doing a big mosaic of the members themselves is in perfect keeping with the mission of the Club. It tells the kids that they are special and heroic.  They all felt like super heroes! And that was the energy and level of excitement at the photoshoot. The kids had a great time and the photos turned out great.          

Below, we invite you to enjoy the results of what turned out to be a very energetic, fun, and successful day. And please stay tuned to watch these images be transformed into the final mosaic design and then ultimately get built at the Club early next year.

The Neighborhood Preservation Center Birthday Party

Neighborhood Preservation Center

ESKW/A have a long history as architects for the Neighborhood Preservation Center, an organization that provides meeting rooms, office spaces, & a resource center to the public, as well as supporting community preservation and sustainability.  Our firm restored St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery, as well as St. Mark’s Rectory, where the NPC has its headquarters.

One week from today on Wednesday, October 8, a several from ESKW/A look forward to attending the Neighborhood Preservation Center’s Birthday Party fundraiser at Webster Hall from 7-10pm.  It’s an evening that brings friends and colleagues from all over the City together to celebrate the Center’s work as an incubator for neighborhood preservation.

For the past 15 years the Neighborhood Preservation Center’s network has grown to include nonprofit and grassroots organizations, government agencies, and professionals all working in the allied fields that engage urban design and planning, history, economics, the environment, and architecture. As a result, NPC has become a recognized and much depended upon hub for this community to gather, learn and NPC Invitationnetwork.

The Birthday Party is a chance for everyone to gather for a festive celebration with delicious food and drinks, music, dancing, and much more. It’s a memorable, fun-filled evening that we look forward to every year.

Purchase your tickets here!

If you have any questions, please contact Felicia Mayro, Director of the Neighborhood Preservation Center at felicia@neighborhoodpreservationcenter.org.

The End of Summer Party

Well September 22 has finally arrived– the official last day of summer.  ESKW/A didn’t let the season go without a fight, however, ringing in the Fall with a last blast celebration in Prospect Park this past Friday.  17 of us, plus a happy herd of children and significant others, gathered around the faint heat of the grill and bravely pretended not to notice the 60 degree weather as we gratefully took the chance to unwind together.

It was a lovely gathering for our office, and a happy start to the new season.  Many thanks to Marcella Yee, who supplied the beautiful photos below.

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.