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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

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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.

Update: True Colors Bronx

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After months of MTA review, BEST Squad reviews, and demolition sign offs, there is nothing that makes an architect happier than seeing concrete being poured in a freshly-dug hole. This week, footings were poured at True Colors Bronx. Since the building doesn’t have a cellar level and underpinning is not required, these footings extend only to match the level of the adjacent building’s footings. Our foundation walls will follow shortly and before you know it we will be lifting plank, or so we hope! Check back for updates.

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Photos used with permission of Artemis Development.

Colorful Classrooms are still Going Strong

By Kimberly Murphy

On June 9, 2014, NY Times writer Jan Hoffman authored an article calling into question the highly decorated, colorful classrooms that we all probably grew up with and where our kids/nieces/nephews are probably currently attending. Here at ESKW/A, we embrace, celebrate, promote, and adore colors so we were especially curious to read Ms. Hoffman’s article. A study performed by Carnegie Mellon looked at the test results of classrooms richly adorned with decoration and ones with stark walls. It’s nice to think that the physical environment was the critical factor in the test results, because as architects we truly believe in the value of the well built environment; however a little thing called teachers might have had an impact as well. We have a hard time believing that scalloped borders on displays are “visually damaging” children. We do applaud a strong stance either way and agree with the notion that the images on the walls should be created by the students in the room.

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The study is admittedly narrow, but since it does place importance on the physical classroom environment we would like to ask for ceiling heights, natural light, and artificial lighting variables to be measured. We bet money that the results will point to improved performance in an improved space. We also think that better space makes for happier teachers and we all want that. Spaces that are well crafted and maintained are places of pride which all schools strive to be.

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We’ve been in many, many classrooms and designed a fair number of them as well. Yes, some classrooms can look like a circus of colors and distractions, but don’t run out for the gray paint just yet! Organized compositions of color and a structure of displays and delineation of various spatial functions can go a long way to improve the modern classroom. Call us, we can help.