ESKW/A Promotes Michael Walch to Senior Project Manager

We are proud to announce the promotion of Michael Walch to Senior Project Manager. He has a decade of architectural experience, and his office leadership and mentorship of staff contribute to the teaching environment that sets ESKW/A apart.

Michael grew up in the East Bay area of California and went to Berkeley for undergraduate school. He found ESKW/A through an old-fashioned job listing—“Was it Craigslist?” he jests—after completing graduate school at Columbia in 2010. Our focus on non-profit work initially caught his eye because in high school he had a part-time job in peer health outreach work with a local organization. “The social function and impact of architecture has remained a strong interest for me,” he added.

The office has nearly doubled in size since he started, but he appreciates that everyone’s unique talents and points-of-view still come through in the work and the culture. Some significant projects Michael has worked on include Ocean Wonders: Sharks!, School Street Residences, DF Mavens, and Chait House.

“Working on the Sharks! shimmer wall, which is essentially an art installation, was more aesthetic-focused than a lot of our work, so that was a really unique experience,” he said. “School Street Residences has been in the works for a while. It’s the first ground-up building in the office where I cohesively led the design, and it’s a very challenging site, so it’s rewarding to see it realized.”

Michael has attended LEDucation in recent years and as a result has become the office’s lead in-house resource for lighting. “I also tend to cast a wide net when it comes to researching new materials, so I enjoy helping project teams come up with ideas,” he added.

Outside of work you’ll usually find him at the gym, baking, or taking on different projects at his upstate getaway. This year he and his partner tackled their small backyard and built a large, raised planter and installed new paving. “After the backbreaking work and some close calls, it looks like the plants are going to survive!” he said.

We’re excited to formally integrate Michael’s ambition and cultivational work ethic to ESKW/A’s leadership!

Prioritizing Health & Wellness During the COVID-19 Crisis

IMG_0749Given the times, ESKW/Architects has been doing our best to stay healthy physically and mentally while working from home. Starting last month, we’ve been sending weekly office-wide emails with tips for remaining active and stable, and individual team members have been leading other initiatives virtually. These are some strategies that are working for us, so please let us know in the comments what’s been working for you!

Our first email reminded staff of the 20-20-20 Exercise to reduce eye strain, which recommends taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes and focusing on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. A similar rule of thumb is B-B-B for Blink, Breathe, Break.

The weekly emails have also included links to the Headspace mindfulness meditation app, as well as apps that currently include free workouts like Nike, Core, and Carrot. One email offered tips for staying connected with friends and family with virtual dinner dates, game nights, and book clubs–and even suggested going low-tech and sending a handwritten letter or postcard!

Everyday on our #health-wellness Slack channel, Architect Daniel Horn has been reminding us to practice 10 minutes of mindfulness meditation at 2:50 as part of an effort led by at250.org that encourages everyone to stop and take a deep breath together, because stress can lower immune response and social distancing can increase feelings of isolation.

“I actually heard about @2:50 from my fiancée,” Daniel said. “But to our surprise the first time we watched it, our friend Arthur Grau from MIT was the one running them! It’s a very small world.”

In lieu of starting a new #achesandpains channel, one team member asked the #health-wellness forum for tips to ease lumbar strain and lower back pain now that he’s not at his normal workstation. Put a foam roller or rolled-up towel behind your back if you’re suffering yourself, or try standing at a counter for some portion of the day.

 

Our #lunch Slack channel was always somewhat active, but it is now more so as the team has been sharing recipes and plate pictures. We’re definitely starting to see more fruits, vegetables, and quinoa, as people have been seizing the opportunity to cook more and eat healthier instead of eating out.

Associate Janine Sutton Golub first started sharing shots of her plates while working from home as another way to stay connected. “As we’re pulled out of our normal routines, keeping some routine, even if it’s different, is very important,” Janine said. “I hadn’t made myself lunch in a while. I do miss our office’s neighborhood lunch options, but this is a new kind of fun.”

By far the most fun, relaxing, and engaging endeavor has been Thursday Yoga-Inspired Breaks led by Associate Fialka Semenuik. She had spearheaded similar in-office sessions in the past, which everyone loved, so now she’s taken our practice virtual. Lion’s mouths, downward dogs, and cat-cows–oh my!

Fialka has completed a 200-hour yoga teacher training course after first approaching a vinyasa flow practice as a way to manage stress and exercise more.

“I distinctly remember how good I felt after the first class. I began focusing on whole-body wellness and wanted to share the benefits with others, and that’s how it first came to the office,” Fialka said. “Now, thanks to the partners’ concern for everyone’s health and welfare both physically and mentally, we had the idea to put together health tips to share. I just hope my contribution has been valuable. More importantly, I hope to remind us of the inseparable mind-body connection and to find that one deep, full breath for the day.”

This has been a trying time for us New Yorkers and for the rest of the nation, but we’re doing our best to stay healthy, and we hope all of you are too. Be well and stay strong!

ESKW/A and 1070 Myrtle Avenue at the SARA National Design Awards

1070 Myrtle Avenue recently received a Society of American Registered Architects (SARA) National Design Award of Honor at the organization’s annual conference in Chicago. ESKW/Architect’s Project manager Fialka Semenuik, AIA, Associate, was in attendance to accept!

SARA presented 80 architectural design awards to professionals and students from across the U.S. The event entailed a cocktail reception and 90-minute presentation during which 47 Honor, 22 Merit, and 11 Excellence designations were awarded. Representatives from each winning project were then welcomed onstage to give remarks.

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Credit: Michael Courier Photography

Fialka took the stage to accept on behalf of ESKW/A and the entire project team. She was presented the award certificate by SARA Committee Chair and President Elect Dennis Dong, AIA, FARA, CSI; Jury Moderator David Stofcik, AIA, ARA, ULI, NCARB, Executive Architect of Master Planning and Urban Design Studio at Walt Disney Imagineering; and Juror Suzanne Musho, AIA, ARA, NCARB, Vice President of Zubatkin Owner Representation. This year’s other distinguished jurors included Brian Lee, FAIA, ARA, LEED AP BD+C, Partner at SOM Chicago; Carol Ross Barney, FAIA, Hon. ASLA, ARA, Design Principal of Ross Barney Architects, Inc.; Juan Gabriel Moreno, AIA, ARA, President of Juan Gabriel Moreno Architects (JGMA); and Mark Nagis, AIA, ARA, LEED AP, Director at SOM Chicago.

“It was a night to celebrate with architects and students from across the country—one of those special occasions to be recognized by our peers,” Fialka said. “For that I am indebted to the rest of the project team at ESKW/A (Annie Kountz and Andrew Knox, Partner-in-Charge); grateful to our client, the Institute for Community Living, for allowing us to play a part in their mission; and grateful to Michael Borruto General Contractor, especially Mike Berg for taking such care in the execution of the building.”

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Credit: Michael Courier Photography

1070 Myrtle Avenue provides 40 studio and two-bedroom apartments in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, to serve clients whose ability to live independently assists in their mental health goals, including young adults transferring out of the foster care system. The economic construction system of pre-cast concrete plank and load-bearing CMU is enhanced by creative detailing of the concrete brick units at corners and the cornice. The street façade is broken into smaller massing and articulated through two concrete brick colors.

“The Jury noted that the spaces feel fresh and hipster-ish … and that interior corridor spaces are resolved quite nicely with a lot of moves made in a cost-effective way,” the award presenters said.

While in Chicago, Fialka found some time to take in the city’s architecture and attended several of the conference’s sessions. Highlights included tours of WJE’s Janney Technical Center (state-of-the-art construction materials testing & research facility) and three recently completed Chicago Public Library branches designed by SOM Chicago.

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Credit: David Sundberg / Esto

In related good news, we recently learned that 1070 Myrtle Avenue has also won an AIA New York State Design Award. Stay tuned for a recap of our experience at their awards luncheon in White Plains early next month!

Update on 535 E. 11th St.

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.

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.

 

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.

Awards Season!

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Not to toot our own horn too loudly, but we’re proud to announce that recent ESKW/A projects have been honored with awards! New Settlement Community Campus, submitted with Dattner Architects, received an Excelsior Award, a new program from AIA New York State honoring outstanding Public Architecture.  Our men’s homeless shelter for Project Renewal at 4380 Bronx Boulevard was recently completed and received a Boston Society of Architects Housing Design Award.

We wanted to take this opportunity to share some of our favorite detail photos of each project which don’t often get promoted. Thank you to AIA New York State and Boston Society of Architects for recognizing our projects.

New Settlement Community Campus

4380 Bronx Boulevard

 

Celebrating Very Special Mothers at Hour Children’s Ribbon Cutting

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Hour Children Inc. celebrated their official ribbon cutting at the recently completed Hour Apartment House III. Among the many honored guests were Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, Greg Birch from New York State Homes and Community Renewal, Brett Hebner from the Homeless Housing and Assistance Corporation, and Deputy Director Raymond Hodges from NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Each honored guest remarked on the beauty of the building stating that this project is more than affordable housing: it’s housing that lends dignity and is a place of healing, blessing, and hope.

The 18 families at Hour Apartment House III are all formerly incarcerated mothers who have reunited with their children and are on a journey to improve the lives of their families. The event was particularly poignant as we celebrate Mother’s Day this Sunday. This brings us to the most powerful part of the ribbon cutting: the women and children who spoke to the group. These speakers shared their stories of struggle, encouragement, and triumph all at the hand of Sister Tesa Fitzgerald and the staff of Hour Children. One young man spoke with wisdom beyond his years of life being like an arrow: “sometimes you have to be pulled backwards to shoot forward.”  Another woman, Vinita, spoke about her many struggles and how Sister Tesa never gave up on her, pulled her out of difficult situations, and sent regular letters of encouragement to her while she was incarcerated. Vinita, who loves to talk, then faced Sister Tesa head-on and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

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With Mother’s Day coming this weekend, we are very happy to acknowledge the amazing and inspiring women at Hour Apartment House III. All mothers struggle to do the best for their children and the journey these women are on is one we are proud to be part of. We are glad to see them all taking pride in their new apartments and forming a strong community where borrowing a cup of sugar is no big deal.

We are especially inspired by Sister Tesa, without whom the program wouldn’t exist and countless lives would have taken a very different path. She is fearlessly committed to helping these mothers and missed no opportunity to remind the funders and politicians that they would be hearing from her again very soon!

Architect: ESKW/A; General Contractor: Fazio Construction