ESKW/Architects Condemns Racism, Discrimination, and Social Injustices

IMG_5357 (1)Recent events and the growing list of Black victims at the hands of the authority sworn to protect them implores us to raise our voices. It was naïve to believe that doing good work was enough. To dedicate our practice to working with community-based organizations to provide honorable housing, shelters, schools and healthcare facilities throughout New York City is not enough. For over 50 years, ESKW/Architects has pushed the design limit with and for our clients who serve the homeless, the formerly incarcerated, the struggling New Yorker in need of safe, quality housing and access to education and healthcare. As Architects, as New Yorkers, as Global Citizens, we stand up and vow to do more. While actions speak louder than words, this is a time when silence is not acceptable.

We believe that housing is the baseline to thriving, successful healthy communities, and we push for more affordable housing along with SHF, MHANY, The Bridge, UHAB, Community Access, and ICL. We will do more for them and others. You should, too.

We work with BRC, Project Renewal, and others who provide secure, honorable shelter for people experiencing homelessness, and we will be on the frontline of developing creative solutions to promote the health of our citizens. We will do more for them and others. You should, too.

We have worked with Hour Children for years to provide housing to formerly incarcerated women and their children, and with West End Residences to house the LGBTQ community. We will do more for them and others. You should, too.

We have worked with the New York Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (nycoba|NOMA) on Project Pipeline to give the next generation of Architects a chance to be more inclusive and to better represent the communities architecture serves. We commit to be BRAVE (banish, reach, advocate, vote & engage). We will do more for them and others. You should, too.

 

“Architecture cannot save the world, but it can set a good example.”

– Alvar Aalto

 

Black Lives Matter

ESKW/A’s Viewing Recommendations While WFH

In an effort to stay connected and invoke some watercooler chat in the virtual world, we’ve begun asking staff for a personal update and signoff at the end of our staff-wide Zoom meetings. Last week everyone told us what they had for breakfast (far too many of us are subsisting on coffee alone), and this week we asked for TV and movie suggestions (for nights and weekends, of course).

To keep things relevant for our professional network, we highlighted staff picks that fit into these categories: Design, Art, and “Given the Times”—but we had to include a few Guilty Pleasures at the end. Happy quarantining!

Design

Several staff cannot deny the architect within, even when at leisure, and indulged Netflix’s Grand Designs, now in its tenth season. This show “presents people who take self-building houses to a new level, following every step of their ambitious plans from beginning to end.” When one of us mentioned this show, somewhat ashamed, others unabashedly replied, “SO good!”

From another corner of the design world comes Amazon Prime Video’s Making the Cut, in which Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn challenge 12 established fashion designers to become the next global brand. Each week’s winning ensembles are available to buy on Amazon, which will hopefully inspire some business casual looks for our return to the office, since WFH robes and day-jamas will be unacceptable.

This last one may be a stretch, but for a more sinister and surreal show loosely involving design, HBO’s Westworld recently entered its third season. Someone had to architect and, like, 4D-print all those simulated realities, right? That show is confusing.

Art

On our #health-wellness Slack channel, folks had already mentioned that The Metropolitan Opera is streaming past performances, and some Broadway shows are also available on YouTube. Our office manager Lauretta watched “Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration” last week, which is more than the composer himself can say. Stephen went to bed early, because the program’s start was delayed due to technical difficulties.

Fialka, one of our associates, let us know that the Tribeca Film Festival (TFF) is streaming its 2020 features and short films for free from April 20 to May 1. Beginning May 29, TFF is also participating in We Are One: A Global Film Festival, “for 10 days of free entertainment and an opportunity to donate to the World Health Organization,” Fialka added.

Piggybacking off Parasite’s Oscar wins, a few of us have checked out Bong Joon-ho’s other films, including Okja and Snowpiercer (which will also soon be a TV show, but was a graphic novel first[!], as Partner and comic book-connoisseur Randy Wood was sure to remind us).

Given the Times

Science fiction reigns pertinent given the times. Jon Mark, one of our senior project managers, has leaned into the sci-fi/thriller genre, offering up 12 Monkeys for how its characters deal with a nascent plague that terminates most of the population (yikes). And still more of our staff has stayed with the post-apocalyptic survival vibe, taking in The Walking Dead and Z Nation.

For a lighter take on the times, another Lauretta selection is the Bill Murray classic Groundhog Day, if a lot of your days are starting to feel the same. Or to break the monotony and isolation, perhaps take some inspiration from Cast Away and paint a face on a ball. Tom Hanks survived that ordeal and COVID-19, just saying.

Guilty Pleasures, Sports Junkies, and For the Kids!

This last section is our catch-all, because we’d be remiss not to admit that some of us are binging “less heady” pieces like TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé, Bravo’s Real Housewives of various cities, and Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle.

If you’re fiending for sports, ESPN moved up the release of its 10-part Michael Jordan and Chicago Bulls documentary, The Last Dance, with new episodes coming out on Sunday nights through May 17. What time is it? “Game time, woo!” Sorry, actually 9 p.m. Eastern. Some of us are really missing some sports time.

To keep little ones occupied, a new dad in the office suggested “Miss Katie Sings” on YouTube, and Partner Kimberly Murphy recently introduced her kids to ‘80s comedies Overboard and Uncle Buck. They’ve since asked for more “oldies” (yikes again).

Let us know in the comments or on social media what you’ve been watching to pass the time, or if you’ve got any more classics for Kimberly’s kids!

Former Partner Adapts to make PPE

Joe Sultan, aka the “S” in ESKW/Architects, may not be architecting on essential housing projects these days, but he is absolutely doing his part along with wife, Sandy Chilewich, to keep us safe. Joe was always a problem-solver in architectural practice, and we are happy to promote him and Chilewich as they adapt to help solve the unprecedented coronavirus challenge.

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Per source:

American Agility

We’re meeting the moment by producing vital protection equipment.

At this unprecedented time, we’re making the most of our manufacturing capacity. The Chilewich factory in Georgia is now producing not only flooring, wall textiles, upholstery, and window coverings, but also personal protective gowns. These gowns are critical to mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Made of a modified version of our TriLam backing, the gowns will be provided to front-line healthcare workers in partnership with Fabric Sources International and a consortium of companies committed to addressing ongoing supply shortages.

High School Students Look Behind the Curtain at Cortelyou Road

image00033In lighter news, back in February before remote learning became the new normal, ESKW/Architects Senior Project Manager Ruth Dresdner took a group of her Bard High School Early College Manhattan students to our 1921 Cortelyou Road project as part of her seminar “Reading the Built Environment,” which teaches students to develop a critical approach for evaluating buildings and infrastructure. The partly sunny, not-too-cool day made for a fun experience of considering the construction industry along with its social value and environmental impact.

“I wanted the students to understand that building a building is very complicated, and many people work on it,” Ruth said. “And they did.”

The project is an interesting mixed use of Housing and Assembly. The land was owned by the Baptist Church of the Redeemer, which then partnered with non-profit housing developer MHANY Management Inc. to re-develop the property to more fully serve the community and the congregation. This blend of development and innovation is not unique to New York City, but we certainly have a broad collection of development types, so for high school students to get an up-close look at one such project is definitely “learning outside of the classroom,” which we fully endorse. 

The tour began on the ground floor where students first saw the church portion of the project, including the entrance and open sanctuary space. From there, the group took the construction lift to the top floor of the residential portion, working their way down to see how the building comes together. Students saw everything from plumbing and insulation to flooring and finishes in the span of an hour.

“I have always had this rosy idea that constructing a building was a somewhat easy job,” wrote one student in their written report. “That image has drastically changed.”

“The absolute enormity of the task of balancing all these factors while still making the building economical is absurd,” wrote another, before describing an anecdote that involved a plumber having to move piping 4 inches to the right while on-site, so that it didn’t interfere with insulation being installed. “This to me signified the millions of assignments that architects are tasked with, and how simple it is to make one little mistake that could hypothetically ruin the building.” We assured him that with a great team like ours, it’s pretty rare that a building gets ruined. 

After students encountered the tangible materials and structures of the building process, they began thinking in more abstract social and environmental terms. On the 6th floor, the building’s continuous insulation and exterior wall system especially captured their interest. By the ground floor, they asked about who would actually be living in these units. One student wrote:

I was impressed that these small studios are offered to homeless women. One of the things that I noticed in each room is that they all had at least one large window. Having this large window highlights how much light is valued in this design. I was also thinking about how these big windows can personally affect its tenants. Knowing that some of its tenants are homeless women and having a non-profit apartment building means bringing in the less fortunate, I think having these huge windows allows them to feel like they are seen and acknowledged by the “outside.” These people might have been stuck in the dark due to several reasons, and giving them the chance to see more of the outside at night from the safety of their room is such a beautiful idea.

The tour concluded with each student receiving a swag bag from the project’s general contractor. The students were all smiles wearing Mega Contracting Group-branded hats, stuffing water bottles and other items into their bags. But their excitement belied the strenuous coursework each of them takes on.

Ruth explained that the school is very selective, only accepting about 1 in 15 applicants, and that by the time each student graduates, the accelerated curriculum has prepared them to pass the regents exam while also earning many an Associate’s Degree (or about two years of college credit). She got involved there because her son was one of the first to attend and graduate, and Ruth got to know the principal as a kind of architectural consultant advising on maintaining the school’s aging facility.

“At some point I pitched a class about these things, and they had me write and develop a syllabus,” she said. “Which took about two years!” And the level of thought Ruth put into the syllabus is rubbing off on her students, if this last excerpt is any indication:

As the tour continues, I have accepted the fact that the only Vitruvian principles for a perfect building that are valued in this project are Firmitas (Durability) and Utilitas (Convenience). This idea brings me back to our discussion in class about whether apartment buildings are beautiful. We argued that most buildings exist without Venustas (Beauty), and usually focus on the utility of stacking people on top of each other. However, as we continued to walk I remembered that Vitruvius defined Beauty as “appearance of the work is pleasing and in good taste.” I kept remembering the fact that homeless/unfortunate people will live here, and I smiled. Then, I turned to the large window again and had an even bigger smile on my face. I realized that the appearance of the work is more than pleasing because of who this hard work is for. I believe that this building is beautiful. Therefore, since it accomplished all the Vitruvian values such as Firmitas, Utilitas, and Venustas, I believe that this a perfect building.

We are honored and tend to agree with this student, but are mostly thrilled that a new generation of New Yorkers are thinking so deeply about their built environment. We’re also glad that the students had a chance to see the construction site before remote learning and social distancing became the norm. We wish them all well with the remainder of their school year and hope that their peek behind the “construction curtain” was a highlight of the semester.

ESKW/Architects Announces an Associate

IMG_5861 (002)ESKW/Architects is proud to announce that Janine Sutton Golub has been named Associate in the firm. We are honored by her dedication to our clients, our projects, and the culture of our office, which wouldn’t exist without her.

Janine first joined ESKW/A in 2004 after her undergraduate program at Columbia when we were an office of merely eight people. Three years later, she “left” to attend grad school at the UPenn School of Design rejoining the office at breaks and summers. In the fall of 2012, she then departed again to Boston to be with her now-husband at grad school, but always saving a place for ESKW/A in her heart! She returned to us in April 2016 and has been here ever since.

ESKWA Senior Staff 2020

Janine said she’s a boomerang, but we like to think of her more as a didgeridoo (wind instrument indigenous to northern Australia), because she’s here to stay, and that’s music to our ears. Her professional favorites with ESKW/A include the award-winning Bronx Zoo Eco-Restroom, the Bronx Community Charter School, and our current new school at PS108 in the Bronx. Whether in the design phase, detailing, or construction administration, Janine brings great interpersonal skills to successfully manage all the moving parts of projects. She serves as the BIM Office Manager, offering technology expertise and developing standards for the office. Janine is a longtime member of the office book club and often treats the office to homemade baked goods. (See the blog post about our Pi Day celebration!)

Outside of the office, she loves water sports, biking, and running, especially while chasing around her adorable youngsters Ella and Dean (a third is on the way this summer!). We’re proud to welcome Janine’s positive, hard-working spirit to the leadership of the firm.

At the same time as this promotion, we also announced three team members as Senior Project Managers! See that news here.

ESKW/Architects Promotes three to Senior Project Manager

ESKW/Architects is proud to announce that Moses Ragasa, Ruth Dresdner, and Jon Mark Bagnall have been promoted to Senior Project Managers in the firm. Combined they bring decades of experience, and their office leadership and mentorship of staff contribute to the teaching environment that sets ESKW/A apart from other firms.

ESKWA Senior Staff 2020

 

Moses_Ragasa_IMG_8902-revisedMoses Ragasa

Moses says it’s been too long to remember when he first started at ESKW/A, but our records confirm it was April 2005. Although the office was a lot smaller and the projects perhaps simpler, the culture and overall goals of the work were very much the same.

Moses highlighted Reaching New Heights Residence & The Apartments at Landing Road, The Emerson and The Old School, and Denton Green as major accomplishments during his time here. Although not one to gravitate to the spotlight, Moses doesn’t shy away from complicated construction issues or challenges. Dramatically sloped sites with pile foundations, block and plank towers on a steel base, historic SHPO renovations, and tenant-in-place upgrades are all project conditions that Moses handles with his trademark calm demeanor.

As our in-house Information Technology coordinator, Moses makes sure our systems stay up and running, reminding us all to save batteries and turn off the wireless mouse and keyboards. He’s a conservationist at heart and we thank him for that!

At office get-togethers, Moses can be spotted talking comic books with fellow superhero nerd aficionado Randy Wood over a craft beer. If you need pop culture references, he’s your guy. And please don’t spoil an episode for him, or you could get the cold shoulder. “I accidentally spoiled a Walking Dead episode 2 years ago, and I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me,” affirms Kimberly Murphy. Moses keeps things simple and direct, (“I’m boring and cheap,” he explained), so we’re very happy his deadpan humor and methodical work style are a part of our leadership.

 

Ruth_Dresdner_IMG_8952-reivsed 2Ruth Dresdner, AIA

Ruth has been with ESKW/A for almost three years, although it feels like she’s always been one of us. She admired our cofounder Judith Edelman’s work on behalf of women in architecture from afar and was also familiar with our New Settlement Community Campus project in the Bronx. So, when she wanted to try something new and different in her career, she came here. “I look for work with redeeming social value for the public,” she said.

With ESKW/A, Ruth is the Project Manager for Bedford Green House I for Project Renewal, School Street in Yonkers for SVWSJMC, NIHOP Multi-Sites for MHANY, and a large-scale cultural facility in Hell’s Kitchen for CHDC. To say she has been kept busy is an understatement. Her clear leadership and teaching style have encouraged and elevated her teams. She’s a true teacher by nature; she even stays connected to academics by teaching an architecture course at Bard High School Early College.

On weekends, Ruth does “what everyone does—[her] laundry,” but her favorite things to do are reading and traveling. The farthest she’s been is Uzbekistan and China (Siberia is next on her list!), and she’s also visited her son thrice in Switzerland where he’s studying computer science. Her daughter runs a hydroponic greenhouse in Industry City and has gotten the whole family into sustainability. Last year Ruth recommended The Leopard, an Italian novel, for our book club, and she brings a sharp, discerning wit to the office. We’re delighted to have her as part of the firm’s leadership.

 

Jon_Mark_Bagnall_IMG_8963-revisedJon Mark Bagnall

Jon Mark joined ESKW/A in 2016, returning to his roots in architecture with a social mission after a brief sojourn in the hospitality sector. While the remit of restaurant and resort design may seem worlds apart from public schools and affordable housing, the purpose of the architecture—“to enrich the joy and drama of living” as a favorite quotation from Craig Ellwood states—remains the same.

“The functional and protective nature of our designs are non-negotiable,” Jon Mark said. As the leader of our Codes Working Group, he stresses the importance of applying not only the letter, but also the intent of the law to each unique design situation. But the real and most satisfying challenge for Jon Mark lies in creating architecture that is not merely a response to the special needs of a user group, but is meant to inspire them as an individual person.

Jon Mark is the Project Manager for our largest mixed use project to date: Archer Green for OMNI Development, located in the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens. Comprising nearly 400 affordable apartment units, retail space, and community uses in two towers totaling over half a million square feet, he said it has been particularly rewarding to see the building grow skyward.

On the festive side of work, Jon Mark contributed Swedish meatballs for the Thanksgiving Potluck and has paired wine for everything from chimichurri at our summer barbecue to aged Gouda at the office happy hours. His spare time is happiest spent building a house (whether his or anyone else’s), messing about in his sailboat (docked either in his yard or on the water), and learning yet another chord on his guitar, hoping to one day string them together into a recognizable melody.

We’re happy to welcome Jon Mark’s enthusiastic spirit and conscientious work ethic to ESKW/A’s leadership!

At the same time as these promotions, we also announced Janine Sutton Golub as Associate! See that news here.

1921 Cortelyou Road and Baptist Church of the Redeemer in the NYT

Today, 1921 Cortelyou Road and Baptist Church of the Redeemer was mentioned in The New York Times in a story about the development of faith-based sites.

In increasingly challenging times for houses of worship, it’s important that the development market reacts sensitively and respectfully. We are proud that our Cortelyou Road / Baptist Church of the Redeemer project is doing just this. The church is expressed physically, distinctly, and honorably, while the housing above provides for the city’s underserved population. We are thankful that this development is welcomed in Flatbush.

To learn more about this project’s intricate history and how it came to life, see our post from March 2019.

PS32K Construction Update

We just returned from our bi-weekly site visit to PS32K in Brooklyn. The school’s renovation and addition is coming along nicely!

Below, the construction team takes advantage of the cantilever for some protection from the sun on this hot day.

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Here, a storefront is installed at the new cafeteria, which will have sweeping views of the playground on three sides.

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Although the building is a very active construction site, the concept of wayfinding through portals of color is already taking shape: yellow to the main stair on the right, coral to the cafeteria straight ahead, and teal to the library on the left.

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The main stair is accented with yellow thresholds on each floor making circulation through the school very clear and bright!

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Classroom corridors terminate in full wall of glass block and clear glazing washing each corridor in daylight.

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Stay tuned for more progress!

Gala Extravaganza 2019

The Bridge (3)

ESKW/Architects’ Randy Wood, Michael Ong, and Sunčica Jašarović at The Bridge’s Partners in Caring Awards Gala.

ESKW/Architects was pleased to attend several benefits the first week of June 2019, in support of the nonprofit organizations we’ve worked with for many years.

BRC

On June 3, the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC) held its annual The Way Home Gala to raise funding for its over 30 programs that help clients achieve their goals of managing mental illness, overcoming addiction, obtaining employment, and finding a place to call home. Over the last year, BRC has served 8,656 people, fielded 12,511 calls on its Homeless Helpline, and seen 5,386 clients successfully complete a program. We’re proud that Reaching New Heights Residence and The Apartments at Landing Road is a place they’re proud to call home.

The event honored Linda Gibbs, Partner at Bloomberg Associates and former NYC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services, where she spearheaded major initiatives on poverty alleviation, juvenile justice reform, and obesity reduction. During her tenure from 2005-2013, NYC was the only top-20 city in the U.S. whose poverty rate did not increase while the national average rose 28%. Before that, she served as Commissioner of NYC Department of Homeless Services.

The benefit raised over $1 million and featured a performance from Broadway star Desi Oakley.

The Bridge

The following day on June 4, The Bridge celebrated its 65th anniversary at the Partners in Caring Awards Gala, where they honored Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.; Jonathan D. Resnick, a developer of affordable and supportive housing; and Dynamic Air Conditioning Company as a corporate partner.

The night’s program included a video package about clients and partners, as well as a speech from client Charles De San Pedro, Jr., who is now pursuing social service work after his own struggles living on the street. “Homelessness has really taught me to appreciate what I have,” he said.

The powerful story was a highlight of the night and nearly tear-inducing, said one of our team members who attended. “Those stories are always a great reminder of why we’re doing this work,” Sunčica Jašarović added. Last winter, ESKW/A celebrated the ribbon-cutting of East New York Avenue with The Bridge, and currently 3500 Park Avenue is under construction.

Project Renewal

Also on June 4, Project Renewal held its 2019 Benefit + Auction, which honored Jonathan F.P. Rose of Jonathan Rose Companies, a mission-focused real estate development, planning, and investment firm.

Table centerpieces featured lively plants reminiscent of green roofs in a nod to the development of Bedford Green House, which topped out earlier this year in March.

“Bedford Green House’s design was inspired by the idea of biophilia, that there’s an innate emotional affiliation between human beings and other living organisms,” Rose said. “Deeply integrating housing and nature, in the project’s front yard there will be a colorful community with jungle gyms, musical instruments, and water fountains, all of which will be accessible to both families that live there and the community. In the rear yard, there will be a beautiful landscaped area with space for yoga and exercise classes. And the pièce de résistance of this project, and the real vision of Project Renewal, is a rooftop greenhouse, which will be filled with nutritious produce, an innovative vertical farming system, and it will also raise fish, providing a whole symbiotic ecosystem.”

The event celebrated Project Renewal’s several workforce development programs, including the Next Step Internship and Culinary Arts Training programs. Diana Perez, a graduate of Next Step, told her story of overcoming addiction and homelessness to pursue a career as the director of a future Project Renewal program.

“When I went into rehab, I met a lot of good people that helped me stay on the right track, and I want to be that for other people,” she said. “I have big dreams of how I’d want to run something. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for the Next Step program, because this is where I feel like I’m actually doing something that I love and I’m dedicated to. It’s honestly unbelievable that I’m here; three years ago, I would’ve never thought it was possible.”

Over 800 people attended the benefit, which raised over $1.6 million.

Settlement Housing Fund

Closing out the week on June 6 was SHF’s 2019 Annual Benefit commemorating its 50th anniversary with the theme: “Building Housing. Providing Opportunities. Improving Lives. Since 1969.” The event honored Alicia Glen, former Deputy Mayor of Housing and Economic Development for NYC; Anthony Richardson, Executive Vice President for Development of NYC Housing Development Corporation; and Charles S. Warren, Partner of Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP.

We are proud to be part of their vast development portfolio dating back to the 1980s. “It is beautiful that SHF is celebrating 50 years of service to New York. We’re proud to have worked with them for close to 40 of those,” said Kimberly Murphy, Partner. “A professional highlight for me definitely includes working with them on New Settlement Community Campus. We’re constantly impressed with their innovation in development and dedication to the end goal.”

Fundraising events are not only important for the organizations’ missions, but they are a wonderful opportunity to connect with our development community and celebrate the great work that our clients provide to our fellow New Yorkers. We’re proud to continue this work into next year and beyond.