Exemplifying “Design for Healthy Living”

other statue

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:

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Meet 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.


Ruth Dresdner, AIA, LEED AP 

Ruth headshot

Ruth lunching in Florence

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Ruth: I was born in the Bronx, but my parents are Israeli. I went there at age 3. I returned after my first degree and studied architecture here.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Ruth: I was aware of Judy [Edelman]’s work on behalf of women and admired it from a distance. I also knew about the New Settlement Campus in Mt. Eden in the Bronx. I’d spent several years in healthcare design and I wanted to do something different and new. Always I try to do work with redeeming social value for the public.

 

ESKW/A: What NYC buildings or spaces inspire you?

Ruth: There are so many places in New York I love. Just picking from the slides in my head, one of them is the FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island. It’s an incredibly crystallized, modern architectural design. It does everything right. The memorial is also outside, with no ceiling, so it creates these outdoor rooms, if you will. The official designer is Louis Kahn, a very important American architect—however ,the original concept came from his mistress, a landscape architect. Just another in the long list of uncredited women!

 

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

Ruth: It is very difficult to pick a favorite. I travel a lot, and I’ve never been to a place that I haven’t been interested in. My next planned big trip is to Siberia, but who knows what will happen now with Putin?

 

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

Ruth: Trump! That’s the all-purpose answer.

 

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

Ruth: That’s also difficult to pick only one. Someone I always admired is Susan Sontag, a writer. I wanted to learn more from her, but sadly she’s gone.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Ruth: I do what everyone does. I do my laundry! But no, that’s not a hobby. Of course, I also do some shopping, cooking, reading, meeting friends, going out.

 

Ruth 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 which is under construction, and the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers.


Michael Kowalchuk 

MK headshot

Michael traveling in Vicenza

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Michael: Manchester, New Hampshire.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Michael: I always wanted to end up in New York. I started working at a small firm in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and one of my bosses there worked at ESKW/A prior to starting their own firm.  I’ve also always been interested in affordable housing, so it was a match made in heaven.

 

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

Michael: There are two spaces, both by Renzo Piano. The New York Times Building because of its atrium with the birch trees. It’s a very surreal juxtaposition of environments right in the middle of Manhattan. And the Whitney. It has so many vantage points for viewing the city, and it kind of makes you feel more like you’re a part of it all. I was also an English double-major in college, which informs my approach to architecture pretty significantly.

 

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

Michael: Havana, Cuba. It’s a really bizarre mixture of old-world architecture in the middle of the Caribbean, and there’s the political history too. It’s like no place I’ve ever been before.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you laugh, or shriek?

Michael: McMansions for both! Also I just saw The Little Hours, and it was really funny.

 

ESKW/A: What famous person, architect or not, and alive or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

Michael: My architect answer is Oscar Niemeyer. He lived through so much—most notably the military dictatorship in Brazil—and was instrumental in adapting Modernism to a regional/national context at a time when the “International Style” was being crudely exported to the Global South. My non-architect answer is Simone de Beauvoir, because she did so much for 20th century politics and feminism, and she’s kind of overlooked here [in the United States]. She’d certainly be an interesting dinner date.

 

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)

Michael: I think God (or St. Peter—he guards the pearly gates, right?) would say, “A for effort.”

 

Michael joined ESKW/A in September 2016. He has been a team member on 2865 Creston Avenue for Project Renewal, 3500 Park Avenue for the Bridge, and has managed several projects for Clinton Housing Development Company. Michael is an inaugural member of the ESKW/A’s book club and frequently lends his second degree in English to promotional efforts for the office.


Gary McGaha 

Gary

Gary at a wedding in Virginia

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Gary: Frankfurt, Kentucky—I was born there and went to high school there. Then I went to undergrad in Georgia at Southern Polytechnic State, and did grad school here at Columbia.

 

ESKW/A: What led you to us?

Gary: There was a building on my street that I passed by pretty frequently (892 Bergen Street in Crown Heights), and I thought it was fascinating. My girlfriend did some consulting for ESKW/A on 233 Landing Road, and she was the one that told me the building was theirs. She connected me with the firm.

 

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

Gary: In New York, spatially and from an urban standpoint, I’d have to say Four Freedoms Park and the High Line, but there are so many. The High Line is so unique and there’s not a prototype for that type of project. It takes elements of a dense urban condition and stitches them together to create moments that wouldn’t exist otherwise. The scenic factors augment these spontaneous activities and adventures.

 

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

Gary: I think it’d be between Paris and Vienna. There are so many layers between the contemporary and the medieval. And there are lots of monuments, boulevards, and the same kinds of opportunities for social interaction and surprise.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Gary: Well, when I’m not busy with home repairs, a lot of biking around Prospect Park where I live, or we’ll go to events and exhibits that are opening. And there’s the occasional travel upstate or to a close city like Philly—a little weekend train getaway.

 

ESKW/A: What makes you shriek or gasp in fear or disgust?

Gary: Kind of like a pet peeve? Cars that get in the bike lane.

 

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

Gary: I might have to do a dinner party. Nina Simone, Martin Luther King Jr., Le Corbusier. That’s a good balance—or combination—of genius, visionaries, and just the greatest citizens or examples of humanity.

 

ESKW/A: What superpower do you want?

Gary: Teleportation. There are lots of moments where the biggest constraint on reality is time and space. And in New York, so much time is taken just getting from point A to point B. So if you could skip that, you’d have more time for everything else. Also I probably wouldn’t need a passport or a hotel reservation.

 

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)

Gary: “Neat or on the rocks?” Or maybe it’d have to be “How do you take your coffee?”

 

Gary has been an architectural designer with ESKW/A since August 2017. Bringing a mix of experience with both institutional and smaller scale interior work, Gary is project manager for the Lucile Palmaro Clubhouse renovation for the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club and an affordable housing renovation at 1772 Second Avenue. Gary also embraced the Revit challenge by being a team member on the School Street Residences in Yonkers for St. Joseph’s Community Medical Centers.


Jon Mark Bagnall, RA 

Jon Mark Bagnall

Jon Mark at the Sailors Ball, which raises money for a kids sailing program in New York Harbor

ESKW/A: Where did you grow up?

Jon Mark: We moved around a lot, because my dad was a minister. So I was born in the South Bronx but moved to Long Island, then New Jersey, and so on. My mother was a social worker as well, so we’d go where the need was greatest. That’s where I found my motivation to work with nonprofits, institutions, and people who need someone to look out for their interests.

 

ESKW/A: So is that what led you to us?

Jon Mark: It’s kind of a small world so I was aware of firms doing this type of work. When you look at what we do, it’s exactly in my wheelhouse. I’ve ventured outside—I’ve done hospitality, even a casino!—but these often have specific design formulas, and I wasn’t feeling challenged. Here, I care about the work we do, and you can’t put a price on that.

 

ESKW/A: What motivates you creatively, in general?

Jon Mark: I think the reason I’m an architect and not an artist is that I need a client [laughs]. I mean I find that the client inspires and challenges me. I like to solve problems. When you have very specific needs—working with the elderly, or those with mental health issues or specific physical needs, or even sharks—and at the same time limited budgets, those provide a framework. Rules make it easier, because you can move around within them. They’re a starting point. It’s a creative problem that needs solving.

 

ESKW/A: Are there any specific buildings or spaces in New York that inspire you?

Jon Mark: For me, New York is less about specific buildings and more the overall texture of a city—going from neighborhood to neighborhood and experiencing the different patterns and scales.

 

ESKW/A: Do you have a favorite place you’ve visited?

Jon Mark: The Yucatan really stood out for a couple reasons. We drove south through the jungle to Calakmul, a temple site which was still being uncovered. The largest pyramid of the Mayan period is there, and climbing to the top, you look out over the trees and see these little hills, and you realize that each hill is another temple that has yet to be uncovered. A landscape architect once told me that if everybody left New York, in a decade the city would be overrun with plants, and that’s exactly what happened to these sites.

Another thing is that the Yucatan peninsula is all limestone, very porous and soft, and it sits on top of the Gulf of Mexico, which flows around and under it. So you come across these huge sinkholes, or cenotes, where you can climb down to what looks like a little island in a shallow pond. You put on snorkeling gear and look down into the water, expecting it to only be a few feet deep. But it actually goes down 100 feet or more! I got vertigo as if I was looking down from the top of a skyscraper.

 

ESKW/A: What do you do on weekends?

Jon Mark: I enjoy sailing in the little sloop I’ve fixed up. My favorite sound in the world is the whoosh of air I hear after the hubbub of the outboard motor is silenced. I also like building things on a smaller scale. I built a small weekend house on Long Island without any drawings—intentionally! I just stood at different locations on the site, and again later in the rough framing of the house, and said, “I’m going to put this here and that there.” I also can’t help making suggestions to anyone who invites me to dinner and risks asking my opinion on their kitchen. I love seeing how other people live and finding out how they want to live. Maybe I’ll have a good idea. Then, of course, they want me to build it!

 

ESKW/A: What superpower or special ability would you want?

Jon Mark: To go back in time and just stand anywhere and see what a landscape or a city looked like 100 years—2,000 years ago… because we live on top of all these layers—of other people, their lives, what they felt, and what they built. It’s incredible.

 

Jon Mark joined ESKW/A in September 2016 and brings many years of new construction experience with him. As the project architect for the office’s largest housing development, he is a critical part of the Archer Green team for Omni New York LLC. He is also the enthusiastic leader of the office’s Building Codes Working Group and makes keeping up with codes a ton of fun.

St. Lucy’s Housing

ESKW/A traveled up to 103rd Street recently to snap some photos of our work on St. Lucy’s Housing, a pair of apartment buildings in East Harlem that provides 100 units for seniors and families.  Our team renovated the shared backyard landscape, corridors, cellars, community rooms + kitchens, as well as providing upgrades to the elevators, heating, and roofing systems.  We were pleased to have the opportunity to spruce up the shared backyard space for the residents, especially with the warm weather in full swing.  With the organic curves to the paths in plan and a natural aesthetic of concrete and wood, we’re proud of the results.

 

Shelter Skelter: A Presentation by Bronx High School Students on Homelessness in NYC

ESKW_Shelter Skelter

Marcella, Martin, and Melissa of ESKW/A

Our recently completed 4380 Bronx Boulevard along with current shelter projects at 233 Landing Road, 2570 Fulton, 91 Pitt, 149 W 132, and 8 E 3rd Street, have us thinking about the public perception of shelters and the homeless.  Last Wednesday several of us from ESKW/A trouped up to the Bronx Museum to attend and show support for a student presentation on the culmination of a summer spent investigating the ins and outs of the shelter system in NYC.  CUP, the Center for Urban Pedagogy, and the College Now program of Hostos Community College brought in teaching artist Patrick Rowe to work with the teens throughout the project and teach them to funnel their newfound knowledge into a visual form (poster shown below).

The students conducted numerous interviews with city council members, the NYC Department of Homeless Services, community board members, and individuals directly associated with local shelters.  They also visited a non-profit shelter as well as Picture the Homeless and garnered a better understanding of the system as seen from the inside.

In the resultant presentation, the class was careful to show both sides of the arguments for and against the types and locations of shelters.  Many members of the audience were surprised to learn that shelters are not evenly distributed over the boroughs but rather are quite concentrated in the Bronx.

“We like to keep families applying to shelters close to their support systems, their children’s school, and to their last known address,” said Lisa Black of the NYC Department of Homeless Services.  Even with the large number of shelters within the borough, however, they fill up and people can sometimes be relocated across the city.  As one student explained, “Let’s say you’re from here [the Bronx], but let’s say all the shelters in the Bronx are full—then they will end up moving to the next closest shelters, which could be in Brooklyn or could be far away, like Staten Island.  From that standpoint, you’re taking me away from my home, from people I grew up with, where I’m very comfortable.”

ESKW Shelter Skelter

The Shelter Skelter poster

No discussion of the shelter system can go without touching on the concept of NIMBY, and the class addressed this as well.  In his interview with the students, Sam Miller of Picture the Homeless explained, “The Bronx is one of the areas that sends the most families into the shelter system.  Many times when communities in the Bronx oppose a shelter, they’re opposed to their own neighbors who’ve been driven out by rising rents.”

It was gratifying to hear that on an individual level many of the students felt that their eyes had been opened and their assumptions challenged.  As one teen told the audience:

“We were asked the question, ‘Who do you think these people are?  Where do you think they come from?’ and unfortunately I had a very low opinion of them.  To be honest, the only homeless people I saw were basically crazy people, drunks, drug addicts, people that didn’t really cause me to think about this issue.  But as the program went on and as we did our visits, and especially when we went to meet some people from Picture the Homeless, they opened my eyes.  Talking to one of the men there taught me through the way that he spoke that not all homeless people are drug addicts, etc.  I hope one day to be as smart as him.”

Her sentiment was common amongst her classmates, many of whom echoed the assertion that their preconceived notions about the system and especially the shelter inhabitants had been turned around.  These students will undoubtedly continue to spread their new knowledge within their neighborhoods, raising awareness and altering the prejudices of those around them.  The presentation focused on a serious problem faced by our community, but thanks to the students’ enthusiasm the tone of the evening was distinctly hopeful.

 

 

Welcome to Oz


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

ESKW Kerry back

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