Pool Party: Renovating the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club

ESKWA Madison Pool 1

Not long ago, the Madison Square Boys & Girls Club reached out for a redesign of their indoor community pool at the Thomas S. Murphy Clubhouse, in Flatbush, Brooklyn.  The existing natatorium is original to the 1920’s building and is in need of an update – including re-shaping and re-finishing the pool, renovation of the girls’ locker rooms, and providing a lobby for spectators.

ESKW/A render and plan

ESKW/A render and plan

Inspired by both the historic nature of the building and the work of the Club, we aimed to blend traditional and modern design influences, and most of all to showcase the heart of the Club – the kids themselves.  Our design includes a monochromatic glass tile mosaic commencing in the Pool Lobby and extending 90’ along the length of the pool room which would depict underwater swimming children. To that end, the Club along with Owner’s Representative LOM Properties organized a photoshoot with New York photographer Hatim, using 2 swim teams of about 30 children altogether. The images of the children will be used in the mosaic truly capturing the motion of the club kids for posterity in the pool room.

Annie Kountz, Project Architect, describes the experience:

The Boys & Girls Club is such an inspiring place. It provides both a haven and a fun place for kids. The skills and confidence that they gain by learning to swim or play basketball enhances their lives, and sets up good healthy life skills for the future, too.

I think what is so special about Madison is that it believes in the inherent goodness in everyone. It believes that ALL kids, no matter what their race, religion, or creed, deserve the opportunities to reach their full potential. The Club provides classes in art, fitness, recreation, health, leadership, parenting, and life skills.  Madison gives thousands of kids a place to go after school. It provides a safe place to learn and grow.  It gives positive adult role models, and most of all I think it gives hope and opportunity.

The project has been meaningful to me personally because I was a Boys & Girls Club kid.  I loved it! I played in Boys & Girls Clubs basketball leagues for years. It wasn’t just an alternative to daycare to keep me busy while my dad worked multiple jobs—it taught me about perseverance and hard work and it gave me lifelong friends.

The Boys & Girls Club in general is such an amazing organization, but what I think makes the pool renovation particularly special is the giant mosaic. The kids were so, so excited about it!  It must mean so much to them that THEY are on the WALL! The kiddos will be edified on a GIANT 10’x100’ wall.  We went through loads of iterations for the tile and wall designs.  For a while we considered a giant Olympic swimmer, but doing a big mosaic of the members themselves is in perfect keeping with the mission of the Club. It tells the kids that they are special and heroic.  They all felt like super heroes! And that was the energy and level of excitement at the photoshoot. The kids had a great time and the photos turned out great.          

Below, we invite you to enjoy the results of what turned out to be a very energetic, fun, and successful day. And please stay tuned to watch these images be transformed into the final mosaic design and then ultimately get built at the Club early next year.

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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.