by Kavitha Mathew, AIA
Despite delays and limitations caused by COVID-19, this year’s AIA New York Day of Service was a resounding success for the teams, organizations, volunteers, and end users of the projects. Two teams were able to procure materials and donations, and secure enough volunteers to successfully complete their projects on the unusually mild summer Saturday. With strict limitations on the number of volunteers at each site, and a multitude of safety precautions in place, masked teams worked quickly and efficiently to complete these meaningful improvements to sites that were in desperate need of some attention.
Dattner Architects completed their first Day of Service project in partnership with the nonprofit Services for the Underserved (S:US). To support their thriving Urban Farms program, which provides therapeutic horticulture, nutritional programming, and employment opportunities to the individuals they serve, a team led by Dattner Architects made a series of improvements to the courtyard garden in the Marcy Hart residences in Brooklyn, NY. This garden is home to everything from beehives to a rice pond, along with a wide array of garden beds and native plants. Volunteers installed redesigned fencing and garden beds, regraded primary seating areas, and added to the overall vibrancy of the existing space with elements meant to improve the workflow for gardeners and encourage all residents to comfortably gather outdoors.
The team from Urbahn Architects partnered for a second year with Bowery Residents Committee to upgrade an exterior space for their Clay Street men’s residence in Brooklyn. Theater and lighting design firm Schuler Shook, along with Forte Construction and TAP Electrical Contractors joined to provide their expertise to the team. Installing new furniture, lighting, plantings, and shading elements, the volunteers converted a narrow, nondescript side yard into a usable exterior recreation space for the residents of this facility. Colorful elements were tied together throughout the space with an intricately painted mural that meanders across the walls and floors, activating this once-bland space into a welcoming space for both respite and exercise.
Other teams were compelled to push back their dates or revise their project scope to focus on design rather than in-person builds due to various protocols within their own companies, as well as those of the nonprofit organizations they planned to work with.
Ennead Architects had completed the design, coordinated with their partner Richter + Ratner, and secured all material donations for their project with Concrete Safaris when they were informed that the project had to be postponed. This East Harlem school library upgrade was delayed in the final weeks before the event by the NYC Department of Education. The in-person build will likely take place this November.
Meanwhile, FXCollaborative and NBBJ will continue to partner with Rebuilding Together NYC to prepare a detailed pro-bono design for improvements to the Woodbine Street Block Association garden, which they hope to implement them at a future date.
This event would not have been possible without ongoing support from our sponsor, ConstructConnect, and the generosity of so many other partners and donors including Bluedge, Coolaroo, New York Digital Ocean Wholesale Nursery, Tape Jungle, Uline, Wallauer Paint and Design, Kat Lam, About the Work LLC, Benjamin Moore, DFB Sales, Green Generation, Kamco, Knoll, Maharam, Primason Symchik, Inc, Shaw Contract, Steelcase, Urban Land Institute, USG, WELL Certified, and Wynd Smart Purifier.