Urbahn Architects Donates Design and Construction Services to the Bowery Resident Committee as Part of the AIA New York’s 2019 Day of Service
Architects and designers from the New York City-based architectural and planning firm upgrade a rooftop terrace at the Lexington Avenue Women’s Residence in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY – As an architectural firm that built its practice on serving organizations that engage the public, Urbahn Architects answered the call to donate their time and talent and participate in the AIA New York’s (AIANY) 2019 Day of Service. The initiative encourages architects to make a difference at the local level by partnering with non-profit organizations to upgrade their existing facilities. A team of 35 Urbahn staffers donated design and construction services to upgrade a rooftop terrace at the Lexington Avenue Women’s Residence in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, a facility operated by the Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC). The residence is a 103-bed center serving homeless women with a range of health challenges.
“As architects, we are fortunate to be able to help improve people’s environments and even their lives in meaningful ways. Most of our staff was attracted to Urbahn because of the firm’s history of designing projects in the public realm in and around New York City. We see Day of Service as an opportunity to get one step closer to the people we serve by not only designing a transformative space, but by building it as well,” said Rafael Stein, AIA, principal, Urbahn Architects.
The AIANY selected non-profit organizations in need of architectural support for small- scale projects that can be completed in one day and five architectural firms to the teams. Urbahn was paired with BRC, which serves New York City’s most vulnerable residents at 30 locations. The scope of the project in Bed-Stuy included creating a new fabric shading system, upcycling existing furniture, painting pavers, adding planters, and creating recreation areas. On the Day of Service, the Urbahn team of 20 staffers, assisted by volunteers provided by AIANY, donned green Day of Service t-shirts and transformed the 5,000-square foot roofscape into a place that residents could use and enjoy, especially during the hot months of summer.
“The rooftop improvement project at the Bed-Stuy women’s shelter has resulted in an attractive, welcoming outdoor space for our residents. We are extraordinarily grateful to the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Urbahn Architects team for donating their talent, creativity, and work to the cause of improving the lives of New Yorkers in need,” said Muzzy Rosenblatt, CEO and President, BRC.
Prior to the actual Day of Service, ten designers at Urbahn worked out a scheme for the renovation and an additional five staffers oversaw logistics and sourcing materials. According to Urbahn designer Mary Geschwindt, who managed the team of Urbahn volunteers along with project manager Laura Maund, “The primary challenge was how to update a roof that experienced too much sun and heat to be used without a major construction intervention and to make changes that would be welcomed by the residents and could be implemented within a low budget.”
The roof already contained an 80-foot long pergola, but is was bare and provided no shade whatsoever. The Urbahn team stretched fabric, donated by Sunbrella, over half the length of the pergola using snap hooks, creating a clothes-line type of rigging so that the fabric could be moved as desired and used during the Spring, Summer, and Fall. Artificial turf completes the area.
The existing roof furniture was not in good condition and in many instances too hot to sit on. Six benches were taken apart, metal frames were saved, and new wood was added and painted in bright orange and yellow, to look and perform like new. With wood, donated by Urbahn, four new planters that resembled the benches were designed and constructed. Local plants, sourced from the New York Botanical Garden, were selected because they are low maintenance and heat resistant.
Urbahn staffers designed and painted complex geometric and floral patterns on the pavers to enliven the space. The stencils were laser cut and donated by Axiom Design & Build , and spray painted with paint donated by the AIANY. Since the roof is also used for recreation, a Tic-Tac-Toe board and Four Square court were painted on the pavers and bean bags serve as playing pieces. A box for playing the Cornhole game was also constructed.
A chain link fence surrounds the roof on two sides. Oversized plywood “murals” created by former residents are hung from the fence adding a degree of privacy as well as giving residents their very own art gallery. Urbahn added green, white, and black slats to the chain link fence, further enhancing the murals and the privacy of the space.
“The rooftop improvement project has made an immediate impact on the quality of life of the 103 residents at the Lexington Avenue Women’s Residence. We are grateful to the team from Urbahn Architects and the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for donating their time, talent, and creativity to design and build a beautiful and comfortable new outdoor space for our residents”, said Daughtry K. Carstarphen, AIA, VP for Capital Projects.
The 2019 AIANY Day of Service is made possible with the support from the following donors and sponsors: Axiom Design & Build, Benjamin Moore, Clune Construction Company, Cosentino Group, ConstructConnect, The Donaldson Organization, Fireclay, General Electric Appliances, Grohe, Island Architectural Woodwork, Inc., Porcelanosa, Sherwin-Williams, Steelcase, Sunbrella, Tech Lighting, and TLM Group.
Urbahn Architects is a full-service planning and design firm based in New York City. Since its founding in 1945, the firm has designed projects for organizations and institutions that operate in the education, science, residential, healthcare, justice, transportation, and infrastructure sectors. Urbahn served as the architect for some of the nation’s most iconic structures, including the Vehicle Assembly Building and Launch Control at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and the Fermi National Accelerator Lab in Batavia, IL. The annual value of Urbahn’s current domestic and international projects exceeds $500 million.
The firm’s project portfolio includes the Lehman College School of Nursing Education, Research, and Practice Center in the Bronx, NY; the Usha Martin University Master Plan in Ranchi, India; the Columbia University Prentice Hall renovation in New York, NY; the Farmingdale State College School of Business in Farmingdale, NY; the $70 million Tides North multi-family residential development in Arverne, NY; the New York City Hall Mayoral Offices and Emergency Situation Center, and Public Health Lab Redevelopment Master Plan in New York, NY; the Centro Medico Correccional in Bayamon, PR; and the Jersey City Municipal Services Complex, Jersey City, NJ.