Emphasizing Color at the Murphy Clubhouse Pool

2018DS10 Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse PoolThe official photos of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club’s Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse Pool are in, so we thought it was an ideal opportunity to tell the color story of the project.

The design team used a neutral background palette of grays, white, and natural wood, a decision inspired by the look and feel of luxury spas. “When you let the context be subtle and simple, it’s easy to make other things stand out,” explained Annie Kountz, an architectural designer on the project.

The pool itself is a rich blue due to a special pigment in the plaster. It was envisioned as a deep plane that would lay in contrast to the soft surroundings. “Most rec pools are an aqua or turquoise color, but this blue really pops,” Kountz said.

The existing pool ventilation was outdated and insufficient, so a primary goal of the project was to replace the system which included a round duct above the pool deck. “The duct is actually fabric instead of sheet metal, which allowed for the bright orange color,” said Janine Sutton Golub, another architect on the team. “Blue and orange are complementary, so it doesn’t take anything away. It mimics and outlines the pool’s shape.”

Even with the central focus of blue and orange color at the pool, the design highlights the real stars of the space: the children themselves. As the photos show, their energy and activity take center stage against a neutral, although not uninteresting, backdrop. The design concept was to create a strong tile mosaic that commenced in the lobby and extended into the pool room. The final solution is a massive 90-foot mosaic comprised of white, black, and gray glass tiles by Architectural Ceramics. “There are also hints of beige and a shimmer,” added Kountz.

The development of the mural image became a project of its own. “At first, we thought we’d use an image of an Olympic swimmer, and we searched for inspiring stock images of swimmers, but there were no appropriate images,” Kountz explained. “So we thought, why not just take pictures of the kids? It’s much more meaningful.”

The club’s owner’s rep, LOM Properties, connected with an underwater photographer who volunteered to hold a photoshoot with 30 swimmers from the Murphy Club. The photoshoot resulted in images and still shots from video that were composed and rendered into the mosaic image by the architects. Shadows, light, and bubbles were added to create depth. The image was taken by the tile sub-contractor, pixelized, and samples were created for the architect’s review. Upon approval, the matted tile sheets were numbered, laid out, and then installed on the pool.

The kids take immense pride in their new space (in an earlier post, one graded the work an A+++).

The mural extends into the new open lobby, creating a central hub. “When you look in, you see the blue, and see the wall going into the pool. But up close, the wall is kind of an abstract scene,” said Kountz. “When you sit in the viewing area and look across, it’s a big statement.”

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Extending The Bridge at the Partners in Caring Awards Gala

group under the bridge

ESKW/A team members mingle before the evening’s program begins.

On June 6, The Bridge held its 2018 Partners in Caring Awards Gala. In celebrating the organization’s work, two individuals were honored with awards, and funds were raised to bring help, hope, and opportunity to thousands of New Yorkers.

Cynthia C. Wainright, president of The Bridge’s board of directors, opened with remarks noting the agency’s 64 years of service. Currently, it houses 1,385 individuals from vulnerable populations in 24 buildings, two shelters, and over 500 apartments throughout the five boroughs.

“And next month, we will open a 66-unit residence on Maple Street in Brooklyn, which will support another 50 adults with serious mental illness and provide 16 affordable housing units for families,” Wainright added.

Wainright was referring to our East New York Avenue project with The Bridge. “No pressure,” one of our team members teased the project manager. The building is rapidly nearing completion.

An incredibly moving video showed Bridge clients living in their spaces and participating in programming that includes art therapy, horticulture therapy, and Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) sessions. Residents marveled at how now they simply feel free and safe in their new homes. A service staff member encouraged them that this is not their last step either, as many clients have transitioned through Bridge shelters and programs to permanent housing. The video closed with the poem “Myself” by Edgar Guest.

“The stories were tear-jerking,” said Sunčića Jašarović, one of our architectural designers. “What a wonderful organization.”

After the video, a client named Gregory spoke about his success story. Having spent 15 years with The Bridge, he has earned his GED, begun a career in maintenance at Bellevue Hospital, and become a U.S. Citizen.

mike and east ny brightest

Mike Ong, project manager on East New York Avenue (somewhat seen behind him).

“I try to achieve in life,” Gregory said. “If I didn’t believe in achieving, I wouldn’t have come this far.”

The Curtis Berger Award was given to Gary Hattem, an advisor to nonprofit organizations. His work with banks, trusts, and foundations has helped make The Bridge’s work possible.

“Society has experienced a loss of social cohesion and what holds us together, but The Bridge brings everyone together in a common cause, in a feeling of unity and purpose,” Hattem said. “Everyone has a place in New York City. Everyone has an opportunity.”

The Partner in Caring Inspiration Award went to Leslie Jamison, an author, instructor at Columbia, and graduate of Harvard as well as the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her writing details her own battles with addiction and her journey to recovery. Guests received a hardcover of her most recent work, The Recovering. (And a tote bag. And a potted plant centerpiece, if they desired.)

“I found kindred spirits in the people who work at The Bridge,” Jamison said. “When I was fighting my addiction, I had access to all the resources—good doctors and therapists, a recovery community, supportive friends and family—that could help me recover. But many of The Bridge’s clients don’t have these resources available to them. The Bridge gives them access to all kinds of support they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

The night was an awe-inspiring celebration of the work the agency, architects, developers, and other groups have done—and a dynamic urge for the work to continue.

“The most important part of our work is that we are making it possible for people living in shelters, on the street, or in psychiatric hospitals to move into safe and affordable housing—fully furnished and equipped—so they can get their lives back on track. It’s a very tangible impact,” Carole Gordon, senior vice president for housing development at The Bridge, told us after the event. “The gala brought together people from so many walks of life. Hopefully they left with a good feeling and want to continue to support us in whatever way they can.”

If the donation thermometer is any indicator (it surpassed the $20,000 goal within minutes and was still rising as we left), then these efforts are sure to continue. And if this photo booth flip book is another indicator, then it’s a safe bet that people walked away with good feelings too.

NYLON #13: Homelessness in New York and London

By Kimberly Murphy, AIA

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On May 31, 2018, I attended the Urban Design Forum’s 13th session of NYLON at the Center for Architecture. The series brings together experts from New York and London to discuss shared issues facing our cities and to have an open exchange of ideas and conversation. Architects were joined by city agency officials, non-profit organizations, and other experts in conversations ranging from safer streets to affordable housing and homelessness.

It was fun to have our colleagues from “across the pond” share their experiences, struggles, and successes via Skype. The numbers vary, and programs have different names, but the bottom line is that affordability is dwindling in both cities, which leads to structural increases in homelessness. Structural causes for homelessness are those not related to behavior and include landlord policies and loss of stable housing. Joslyn Carter, administrator of the New York City Department of Homeless Services (DHS), spoke about how the number of children and families in temporary housing has been rising. Rents have increased exponentially higher than incomes have, and working families cannot keep up.

So what is being done? Alice Brownfield, director of Peter Barber Architects in the U.K., shared several remarkable projects that included shelters and supportive housing. Their work is impressive and speaks to a scale of “home” that many urban dwellers don’t experience. It’s interesting to me that there was such low density in some of the projects, whereas much of our work in NYC is based on high-density city conditions and providing up to 200 beds (max) in a facility. The “cottage” feel of their Holmes Road Studios is very appealing. I also appreciate their embrace of brick masonry as a material.

Holmes-road---Elevation

Credit: Peter Barber Architects (found via http://www.peterbarberarchitects.com/holmes-road-studios)

Common threads in the work were dignity of space, welcoming and bright entrances, and common areas that encourage socialization. Basic needs like security and high-quality programming were also core contributors to success.

Jonathan Marvel, of Marvel Architects, spoke about his firm’s work in evaluating the Belleview Men’s Shelter, which houses nearly 800 single men. From their studies, clients and program providers indicated that security, dignity, services, and community are  the top of values and issues related to shelters. Jennifer Travassos, head of prevention and commissioning for Westminster Council, referred to coming home and relaxing in your jammies as a practice not available to the homeless. I found that to be a great, humanizing reference that those with homes take for granted as a contributor to mental health and life in general.

We were especially interested in this discussion since our Landing Road (aka Reaching New Heights Residence) project for BRC enjoyed its ribbon-cutting ceremony earlier this month. In an innovative funding model, non-profit shelter provider BRC developed a 200-bed shelter on the lower levels of the building which funds 135 units of affordable housing on the upper levels. The project marks the first new construction of a NYC shelter in 25 years and serves as a model for financing much-needed permanent housing.

“Our HomeStretch Housing pilot—Landing Road—provides beautiful, high-quality affordable housing  to the low-income individuals BRC assists in our shelters,” said Muzzy Rosenblatt, president and CEO of BRC. “Through BRC’s The Way Home Fund, we plan to kickstart the development of a pipeline of projects that will replicate the success of Landing Road and ultimately create thousands of units of low-income housing, help the city decrease the size of the shelter system, and close down decaying and unsafe facilities.”

To connect back to what’s being done to improve NYC shelters, the Urban Design Forum sent their Forefront Fellows to Landing Road the morning following the ribbon-cutting as part of DHS’s Conscious Shelter Design initiative. The fellows were touring 15 different sites (including Project Renewal’s Ana’s Place) to develop guidelines for shelter providers that focus on maintenance, accessibility, landscape, and space utilization, among others. The architects, building owners, and program directors provided a tour and answered the fellows’ questions. It was interesting to speak of the design and programming of the Reaching New Heights Residence in the context of the previous morning’s seminar and comparisons to challenges and solutions in London. Issues related to entry, security, wayfinding, maintenance, and connection to nature all resonated. We were pleased to assist in the research and look forward to contributing further. The goal of DHS to become obsolete is a lofty one, and until it becomes a reality, we appreciate their efforts in making shelters places of welcoming and security.

Meet more of the Team

ESKW/A has added several new team members over the last year or so. Get to know them in a series of meet-and-greet interviews.


Sunčića Jašarović

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Sunčića ESKWA

Sunčića on a site visit

Sunčića: I was born in Bosnia. My parents and I are refugees. In 1993, everyone in our refugee camp was on our way to Portland, Oregon. There was a layover in Chicago and we said, “We’re not getting on another plane!” My great uncle lived there. (He was a leather salesman who traveled all over the world but then shifted to engineering and became an elevator consultant. So it makes sense now why he was really excited about me pursuing architecture; he showed me his work consulting for SOM on the Hancock and many other buildings!) But then we moved to Des Moines, Iowa, and I went to school at Iowa State University.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Sunčića: It’s not always easy in this field for women, and the destruction of neighborhoods due to gentrification was diminishing my love for buildings. So when I learned about ESKW, their work, and their staff, I knew this is exactly where I wanted to end up. I learned a lot about Jane Jacobs and her activism in school, and here I discovered that Judy Edelman (one of the founding principals of ESKW) was kind of a kindred spirit.

I also have this intense professional drive and the sense that practice makes perfect. That might come from my grandfathers. They were both civil engineers, but over in Bosnia and Croatia that basically means they’re the master builders in charge of everything. In high school I was in ACE (Architecture, Construction & Engineering), an after-school program; my mathematics background (my father was a mathematics professor at the University of Sarajevo) pushed me into engineering. But when I tried architecture, it presented this huge challenge to create spaces that people can enjoy and be comfortable in. It’s mind-blowing, and at the end of the day that is our responsibility.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Sunčića: Right now I’m studying for the ARE and my friends can’t empathize so they don’t understand why I can’t do anything. Well, my lawyer friends feel my pain. But my boyfriend and I brew beer, and I love the beach—all of them. Croatia has some amazing beaches. That’s one thing I kind of resented about Iowa.

 

ESKW/A: Do you have any exciting trips planned?

Sunčića: I’m going to India next month, because an old high school friend is marrying an old college friend! And actually I’ve got another wedding a month before that in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

 

ESKW/A: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? (Credit: James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio)

Sunčića: I would hope it’s something about how many people I helped or just made feel good, even if it was just a smile or nod on the sidewalk. That’s why I like buildings. They have a huge impact and a real legacy. It’s a personal thing for me—because I love human beings.

 

Sunčića has been an architectural designer at ESKW/A since the summer of 2016 when she jumped in as a team member and model manager on 3500 Park Avenue for The Bridge. She has managed projects for Clinton Housing Development Company and is currently kicking off a renovation project on Teller Avenue in the Bronx. In perhaps the most challenging role of her career, she managed the renovation and expansion of ESKW’s office, working with some of the most demanding clients imaginable.


Matthew Feis

Matthew Feis ESKWA

Matt’s Pinterest profile picture

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Matt: Long Island and Brooklyn. I always tell people I’m a New Yorker in a nutshell.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Matt: Friendship and community! I was introduced to ESKW/A after playing tennis with a friend who is now one of my coworkers. He introduced me to the firm and I was really impressed with the history of projects in supportive and subsidized housing and the caring nature that the firm cultivates. I am pretty happy as a new employee.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively?

Matt: I really like collage as a medium. Also, this might be a weird answer, but I find that conflict motivates me. The architect is forever trying to solve multiple problems simultaneously.

 

ESKW/A: What is your favorite place you’ve visited?

Matt: Oh man, the best place has to be the Serengeti in Tanzania. Seeing all the animals, the terrain, the sunsets—simply amazing. Wildebeests, dung beetles, and lions—oh my!

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Matt: Most of the time, weather permitting, you can find me playing tennis or just walking around in Fort Greene Park.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower do you want?

Matt: I am a huge X-Men fan. Personally, I would just want to fly.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh? Or alternatively, gasp or shriek (in fear or disgust)?

Matt: I find humor everywhere. I think it’s funny that I shriek at moths. I hate moths! If you ever go on the offensive, there is nothing you can do. They attack back in the most chaotic manner—they fly left, they fly right, and then fly in your face. It’s unpredictably scary! Plus, when you ever actually kill one, they just poof into dust. Are moths ghosts?!

 

Matt joined ESKW/A in 2017 and is a team member for the Rockaways Retail and Community Development project and has managed projects for Clinton Housing Development Company and BRC. He also looks forward to working with MHANY Management Inc. on several sites for new construction in the Bronx.


Frank Ball 

Frank Ball ESKWA

Frank at his desk

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Frank: In Connecticut, basically suburbia. I went to Pratt in Brooklyn and studied fine arts for half a year in Greece. The sculpture professor there was actually an architect who tried to talk me out of architecture, but I didn’t listen.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Frank: An instructor of mine is an engineer that works with ESKW a lot. So I met Kimberly and started here part-time when I was a student as kind of an intern—it’s not very hierarchical here. When I was done with school, I just joined full-time right away—even skipped the pageantry of graduation. I didn’t want to do the robe and all that.

 

ESKW/A: What buildings or spaces in New York City inspire you?

Frank: I really like riding my bike along the West Side Highway. There’s a great pedestrian path. And there’s tons of new construction going on over there, really cool stuff. And it’s going up at light speed. The Hudson Yards development is supposed to be the biggest since Rockefeller Center, so it’s neat we’re living through that.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Frank: Usually grilling because I have a backyard for the time being, but I’m about to move. It’ll be a blessing and a curse—fewer roommates and no dog accidents on the floor.

 

ESKW/A: Which celebrity or historical figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Frank: I would probably have to pick a famous architect. I don’t know though, Frank Lloyd Wright had a concept that the house should be built around the hearth. But I think maybe it should be built around a grill.

 

Frank has been an architectural designer at ESKW/A since early 2017. He is a team member on PS32K for the NYCSCA currently under construction, and 1920 Cortelyou Road which will start construction in the spring. Frank will also be a team member on a renovation project for Catholic Charities in Queens.


Sarah Sirju

Sarah ESKWA

Sarah at the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Sarah: Trinidad, then I moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and visited New York, and the culture and vibrancy brought me here. I just had to live here.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Sarah: I chose ESKW/A because the people—especially Lauretta and Lucille—were just so nice. It’s not a “crack the whip” place at all.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively or professionally?

Sarah: Just living in the city itself has a motivational factor. People around the world travel here to see the city and the buildings and the culture. It’s the concrete jungle, and we’re in it. It really is like that song.

 

ESKW/A: What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?

Sarhah: Singapore. The culinary culture there is something I’d been drawn to for a very long time. And architecturally it’s very interesting too, with the Gardens by the Bay, and I stayed in the tallest hotel. It had a rooftop pool that was basically just hanging off the building.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do for fun?

Sarah: When it’s cold, I like to stay indoors and prepare comfort meals. But when it’s warm, I like to go out and pretend I’m a tourist, explore, and take pictures. There are so many neighborhoods in the boroughs that are foreign to us.

 

ESKW/A: What famous person or historical figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Sarah: Steve Jobs. I like how he started out, and I’d want to ask him how he became so successful.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower would you want?

Sarah: To become invisible, so I can walk around the city peacefully, and maybe bump into a few people so they can see how it feels. Or flight would be cool too, then you could just fly everywhere and not bump into everyone.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh—or alternatively, what repulses you?

Sarah: I guess I kind of smirk or chuckle when bad people get what they deserve. And then I really hate it when people sneeze or cough and don’t cover their mouths! Then we’re all touching the subway poles. It’s like, “Come on!”

 

Sarah is the assistant controller/bookkeeper for ESKW/A and has only been with us a few months, but has greatly eased our financial growing pains in the short time she’s been here. In addition to making sure everyone gets paid(!), she will bridge with senior staff to assist in office operations.


Chris Curtland 

Chris ESKWA

Chris enjoying sushi at an office birthday party, on his second day of employment with ESKW/A

ESKW/A: Where are you from?

Chris: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s called that because of the Cedar trees and the Cedar River. I went to the University of Iowa for journalism and English and got a job writing about facilities management, and then interior design, at some trade magazines produced there. That’s what got me into this architecture and design world.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Chris: I saw this job on Indeed, and the firm name seemed oddly familiar, like maybe I’d written about a project of theirs before. But I Googled the firm and couldn’t put it together. So then I Googled the firm name and my name and realized that I’d interviewed Joe Sultan about his flooring company after he’d left the firm! It was a wild, small-world connection. I mentioned that to Kimberly, and we also had the Midwestern connection, and we just really clicked. Everyone here is so cool and nice.

 

ESKW/A: What inspires you creatively?

Chris: I really like connecting with people, and I’m also kind of a natural storyteller. So that’s why I’ve been really enthused about working here. The design is awesome, but here it’s not just about making a pretty building, or architecture for architecture’s sake. It’s that this firm really cares about their clients, and the buildings serve those people and have a real function. So I’m inspired to discover those connections and then share those stories with the world.

 

ESKW/A: What’s your favorite place you’ve visited, or somewhere you’ve always wanted to go?

Chris: I’ve always wanted to go to Rome, because I studied Latin in college, and as a tie-in with that, I learned a lot about the classics. I think it’d be really cool to see the Colosseum and ancient sites where they actually spoke this dead, root language. Latin also really helped me as a writer—it expands your vocabulary and teaches you about sentence structure and phrasing, how a word functions in a sentence. Also with the magazine I traveled to Spain to learn about tile and ceramics, and that was really cool. Lots of great food, neat architecture, and some ancient stuff there too.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do for fun?

Chris: I do some improv comedy and a little acting every now and again. I started taking improv classes in Iowa because there’s a really well-funded community theater there, and improv teaches you to be very attentive and a great listener, because you have to be able to respond to your partner. It also teaches you to be very open and accepting so you can support your partner’s ideas, so I think it’s just helped me to be a better person, and performing is definitely part of the storytelling thing too. I’m also known to hit a karaoke lounge every so often.

 

ESKW/A: What celebrity or famous figure, alive or dead, would you want to have dinner with?

Chris: Elvis Presley. To me, he’s more icon than man, like he doesn’t seem like a real person, so I’d want to just sit down and have a conversation with him. I really wasn’t even a fan of his until I took a class on him in college, for actual English credit! This class came about in the early 90s and Keith Morrison interviewed the professor for something like 60 Minutes, like “Why are you teaching a class on Elvis?” And this professor was from Africa, and he saw and heard all these things in Elvis I never knew existed. Like I always figured Elvis was the guy who ripped off blues and black music, but this professor saw that Elvis was actually paying homage to the original performers in these subtle, interesting ways. He would communicate with them and was very respectful of what came before. So I think I’d have to ask him about that.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower would you want?

Chris: I guess telekinesis would be cool, but I actually have to say telepathy. I think knowing what everyone else is thinking could do a lot of good—well, maybe a lot of bad too. But I think telepathy would help us empathize more with each other, and connect with each other.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh?

Chris: That’s tough because I love to laugh and I laugh at a lot of things. But in any situation, blunt realism really kills me. Ruth [see her interview in the post dated 4/20/18] has been cracking me up lately. She just tells it like it is, pulls no punches.

 

Chris Curtland has only been with ESKW/A for one month and has already launched our official Instagram account, among other promotional efforts. He is the firm’s marketing and communications coordinator, bringing nearly 10 years of professional writing, journalism, and content marketing experience, about six of which has been in the architecture and design industry.

Exemplifying “Design for Healthy Living”

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The view from the event location

Last week, four of our team members attended Design for Healthy Living, hosted by the Center for Active Design (CfAD) in collaboration with the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC). In the spirit of the event, we walked the few blocks to 31 Chambers Street where it was held.

The interactive session included lectures, breakouts, and feedback— all focused on the intersection of design and health. Our team attended because we know architects are in a unique position to affect positive health outcomes in several ways, and because ESKW/A has been following the CfAD since FitCity 1 in 2006 (more on that later).

The Center for Active Design’s goals are to support the creation of environments that improve productivity, community engagement, and civic trust—while reducing stress, anxiety, depression, and social isolation. They put a strong emphasis on providing these types of spaces and amenities to some of the population’s most vulnerable groups, including at-risk youth, older adults, and those affected by homelessness and mental health issues, among others. This hit home for us.

Much of ESKW/A’s work—from affordable and supporting housing to community centers and schools—puts CfAD’s philosophies into action. In fact, our New Settlement Community Campus project was featured in one of the presentation’s slides (more on that later, too). We found the event valuable not only because it dealt with issues central to our core mission, but also because it provided the opportunity for discussion as opposed to feeling somewhat one-sided.

group discussion

Some of the most compelling takeaways indeed came from attendees who participated in the sharing session. One designer remarked that he saw a lot of active design strategies in the nicer neighborhoods of Manhattan but stressed the need for “equity across boroughs.” Another remarked that active design is important, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of accessible design. Perhaps the most captivating story came from a man who does work in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where conflict between public housing developments have had a grave impact on the neighborhood. To counter this, his organization worked to beautify the public space between the two and create a place each development is connected to through murals. He stressed that good design principles are most needed in communities that have been historically disenfranchised, marginalized, and overlooked.

“The Brownsville project resonated. As design professionals, we have an obligation to the community. As our work may be pinpointed to one building, we should be aware of the surroundings of a project and respond with compassion,” Suncica Jasarovic, one of our architectural designers, said after the event. “Our job as architects is to design for the health and well-being of humanity.”

Our very own Kimberly Murphy attended the first FitCity in 2006 and has been supporting the agenda ever since. She even spoke at the 10th annual event in 2016. Here are some slides from her presentation about New Settlement Community Campus, a project that exemplifies active design:

These things continue to matter to her and to us today. Below you’ll see she’s still “rocking” and reading to children at the New Settlement Community Campus. The project—a collaboration among the Settlement Housing Fund, NYC Department of Education, NYC School Construction Authority, and ESKW/A and Dattner Architects—was also featured in last week’s presentation. CfAD applauded the use of color to support wayfinding and locate programming in a building with many functions: a public school, D75 school, and intermediate/high school, in addition to a community center.

Kimberly NSCC Slide

“Healthy design and evidence-based research are especially relevant to our work, considering that our clients serve a range of at-risk New Yorkers: seniors, homeless or formerly homeless, children, mentally ill, people living at or below the poverty line,” explained Kimberly. “Our work has always taken a humanistic approach, and to hear that designers have a responsibility as health professionals is very interesting. It boosts the importance of design strategies that we consider best practices and pushes our strategies to new levels.”

We thank the CfAD and NYC DDC for their continued work in this arena, and for a great afternoon (and for the cheese)! To learn more about other projects of ours that address community concerns, click the links below:

LEDucate Yourself

By Michael Walch, AIA

When I attend a conference, I have three objectives: see a lot of new products, learn from experts, and enter raffles. This year’s LEDucation exhibition did not disappoint.

Things I Saw

Dim to Warm Capability. At last year’s LEDucation the hot thing seemed to be “tunable white” LEDs—one fixture with very warm (2700K) and very cool (3500K) LEDs side-by side so you could select how cool or warm you want the fixture. It’s a great thought until you realize you’ve pretty much doubled your controls, so this year the phrase “tunable white” was regularly accompanied by sighs and grumbles. It’s not exactly the same, but a lot of manufacturers are offering “dim to warm” LEDs which are a more practical, don’t-have-to-think-about-it solution. As the LEDs dim down, they auto-magically get very amber, more like a traditional incandescent bulb. It’s a nice upgrade.

Dim to Warm

Oxygen LightingThis manufacturer makes very simple, solidly built fixtures. They work well for our projects because they blend well between commercial and residential spaces. The form factors have just enough decorative interest, and they are offering bronze and brass finishes on more fixtures. We used Oxygen recently for the bathrooms at Chait Residence in Staten Island (see photo below).

Bruck by Ledra. This line includes decorative, pendant, and track fixtures. They are very budget-friendly so it’s nice when you find something like this sconce. It’s an open metal loop with a gold finish inside—a really nice accent.

Nuvo by Satco. These fixtures are well-made and budget friendly. We’ve used their fixtures on a few projects, because they’re a good source for simple forms.

Justice Design Group. Bring that alabaster realness! Yes, Justice Design Group is on the ornate residential side of the spectrum, but I was happy to see their line because almost all their shades are made of resin or acrylic, so if you’re looking for a glass alternative with some visual interest, they have good options. They’re also relatively affordable.


Things I Learned

This is my third year in a row attending Marty’s lecture (see slides below, click to expand). Can’t stop, won’t stop. Let’s be clear: it’s not the most fun topic, but the choice in energy code compliance paths (IECC or ASHRAE 90.1) is critical not just for lighting but on your whole project. Marty is a code expert and lighting designer so each year she can both update attendees on the code language differences, as well as consider real-world examples.

Exceptions make the rule, right? They also each have a story. Imagine you’re developing the new energy code and one of your esteemed colleagues arrives to a review meeting with a new outfit, which they’re obviously excited about, but it just looks terrible on them. I presume this was the initial spark that led to exempting mirror lighting in dressing rooms from the limits on total interior connected power under both model codes. Regarding those “nonhuman life forms” (we all see those cats in the upper right of the slide): I love my cat, and she needs light.

Parts of the energy code (ASHRAE 8.4.2 “Automatic Receptacle Controls” in this case) seem designed purely to annoy us. Perhaps the annoyance is a happy side effect but it turns out that while the energy use of lighting, proportionately, has drastically reduced in the past decade, other uses have stayed the same or even increased, and those uses tend to be plug-in devices. So, under ASHRAE 90.1, in some spaces plugs are required to be on a timer to reduce that.

Moving on: what’s flicker (see slide below)? It’s a blinking light source that’s perceptible and annoying. What’s an acceptable level of flicker? That definitely depends on the application, and probably on the individual observer. Now you might be saying to yourself, “These expensive LEDs flicker?” Yes, inherently! Unlike incandescent sources, LEDs have no partial-on state, so dimming is achieved by rapidly cycling them on and off so that you perceive them as dim. This is handled by the driver; it is often a challenge at lower light levels, and different drivers (even from the same manufacturer!) will perform differently. It’s an ongoing challenge and all the more reason to round up sample fixtures for everything on your project.

Let’s say you have a fabulous all-LED installation of about 100 fixtures. But one dies. Unfortunately, we are back to the classic “re-lamping” issue where you may need to replace all the lamps if you want them to match color or dimming performance. LED lighting is evolving at the pace of the semiconductor industry, so LED chips you purchased a year ago are probably not made anymore. It’s important to select fixtures that use swappable LEDs or can be wholly replaced themselves.

Dimming: it’s universally a nice thing to have. The good news is that since all LED fixtures require a “driver” that steps the AC power to DC, almost all fixtures offer some form of dimming option. From there, things get a little crazy. In a nutshell, every component of the system from the diodes all the way back to the controls has to be compatible and even then, like the diagram below shows, different fixtures will behave differently as you move those sliders or spin those dials. All to say: check compatibility all the way across the system and get a sample or mock-up of every fixture type, with a control on it, to understand how it will behave.

If you have a thing for vintage lighting controls, fear not—you can generally use them with LED light fixtures. However, especially where the energy code or program requires more complex zoning and controls, traditional components end up with very complex wiring schemes that are rife for error and inflexible for future changes. Digital controls offer the trade-off of possibly more expensive components but a more simple and flexible physical installation.


Things I Won

Nothing from the raffles unfortunately. But at least I got the takeaways above.

Michael Walch, AIA, has been with ESKW/A since 2011. In addition to being our resident LED-enthusiast, he is currently the project architect on the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers and project manager for the Rockaways Retail and Community Development. His past projects for ESKW/A include Sister Jane Manor (also for St. Joseph’s), DF Mavens Store, and Ocean Wonders: Sharks! (for which he was our shimmer wall expert, among other duties).

Creston Avenue Gets Diggy with It

Dante's hell

Photo credit: Hollister Construction

By Ruth Dresdner, AIA, LEED AP, and Marcella Yee, AIA 

At first glance it may look like a corner of Dante’s inferno—but this is, in fact, our construction team, hard at work at 2865 Creston Avenue in the Bronx.

They drill, excavate, clear rock, and pour concrete. At right, they are forming what will become the bottom of an elevator pit.

They’ve been working nights to make up for time lost to an unusually harsh winter (but this is a dedicated bunch, and we worked through it—proof below).

ESKWA Creston Ave rock

ESKWA Creston Ave

The foundation wall sits directly against the bedrock (below right). The team is taking great pains to keep the awesome rock outcropping (below left). The rock, like much of NYC’s bedrock, is gneiss (pronounced ‘nice’). On this site, rock hardness ranges from NYC bedrock classification 1B (medium hard rock) to weathered portions classified as 1D (soft rock). Hardness is a crucial attribute of rock because a building foundation can be supported on hard rock, while soft rock may not have the capacity to take the load. Also, when excavating rock, the softer it is, the faster it goes.

Bedrock at this site is mapped as the Proterozoic-Eon Fordham Gneiss, which is typically a banded gneiss to schistose gneiss with pegmatite intrusions. During the Pleistocene epoch, a series of glaciers advanced and retreated across the New York City area, initially scouring soils down to the bedrock. In the Bronx, bedrock is often exposed at the ground surface or covered with a thin layer of glacial soil such as glacial till or outwash sand. Since the retreat of the last glacier, roughly 20,000 years ago, exposed and near-surface bedrock has been subjected to weathering, particularly along joints and foliations in the rock. (Information in the preceding paragraph came from Geotechnical Report dated 12/17/2015 by Mueser Rutledge Consulting Engineers.)

At the other end of the site, a gabion wall is rising. It is made of steel wire baskets filled with pieces of rock excavated on site. Not only is it beautiful (at least in our opinion), but it is made of natural material, and by using what was already onsite, less material will be carted away, and less has to be trucked in. When finished, the gabion wall will be a 20-foot high retaining wall at the rear yard of the building.

ESKWA Creston Avenue gabion wall

Creston Avenue gabion wall

Stay tuned for more updates!

ESKWA Marcella and Ruth

Marcella and Ruth

Ruth Dresdner, AIA, LEED AP, has been an architect at ESKW/A for almost a year and has taken on two of our largest new housing construction projects. She is project manager on both 2865 Creston Avenue for Project Renewal, and the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers.

Marcella Yee, AIA, has been with ESKW/A since 2014 and has been a lead team member on the Creston project since the design phase. She was an instrumental architectural team member on the successful RFP for Archer Green with particular focus on façade development and detailing during design and construction documents. She is also project manager on shelter renovation projects for BRC.