by Kavitha Mathew
On Saturday, May 18, AIA New York held its second-annual Day of Service. Five groups of volunteers helped to bring ideas to life for nonprofit organizations around New York City. Leading up to this special day were months of behind-the-scenes planning, design, and coordination on behalf of the many architecture firms and teams leading these projects.
COOKFOX Architects, along with Clune Construction Company, began demolition on their gut renovation of a kitchen for the Ali Forney Center (AFC) the previous week. Carpenters and an electrician arrived early to remove the outdated and worn cabinets, the countertop, sink, and appliances. The kitchen is the heart of this AFC emergency center, which serves LGBTQ youth. A much-needed upgrade provided the residents with a brighter, more efficient, and beautiful space to gather and prepare meals. The team was able to procure generous donations for all the materials and labor to bring this organization’s dream to life. After days of deliveries, modification and installation, volunteers arrived on-site Saturday morning to paint the space and get it ready for use. A permanent countertop and backsplash installation are the last steps to completing the project in the coming weeks.
The rain stayed thankfully away for Ennead’s outdoor project at a Concrete Safaris community garden in East Harlem. Ennead was able to enhance this organization’s mission to teach children to transform their surroundings by navigating New York City’s infrastructure, and to learn healthy habits by creating gardens to grow produce on NYCHA land. Teaming up with Clune Construction Company, the firm designed a series of benches and planters oriented around a circle to create an outdoor classroom and central hub for the garden. During a prep day and the service day, their team worked with other volunteers to cut the lumber and build the sturdy wooden structures, as well as to install planters in the garden using stacks of painted tires.
In Chelsea, Francis Cauffman Architects joined forces with the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) to brighten up multiple classrooms and community spaces for a Bowery Residents Committee (BRC) transitional residence that provides mental health and medical and chemical dependency services. The programs aim to place clients in appropriate, supportive housing within nine months. Volunteers worked tirelessly through the day to paint the spaces and get them ready for immediate use by those who benefit from these services.
FXCollaborative, NBBJ, Perkins Eastman and Shakespeare, Gordon, Vlado: Architects (SGVA) made up the largest team of the day, providing a formidable crew to upgrade Rebuilding Together NYC’s Lincoln Square Neighborhood Center. The volunteers braved high scaffolding rigs to paint an enormous gymnasium space and multiple other rooms in this facility, which serves the greater Lincoln Square neighborhood with programs that include an Early Childhood Center and a range of youth, adult, and senior services. By the end of the day, all of the spaces had been painstakingly painted and were ready for action!
What started the day as a plain, nondescript rooftop, largely unusable due to the lack of shading and privacy, was transformed to a glorious oasis in a matter of hours for residents at another BRC site, a women’s transitional housing residence in Brooklyn. Urbahn Architects worked closely with the organization to determine how to make the rooftop an extension of home for the women living here. By draping vividly colored shading sails from a steel trellis structure, building colorful games areas, painting decals on pavers, reconfiguring bench seating, and adding planters, they were able to designate open air spaces for play, respite, and contemplation. Bright fencing strips playfully woven through the existing chain link fence provide a bit of seclusion from the neighboring buildings. By the end of the day, Urbahn’s team had implemented all of the elements of their thoughtful design and were able to observe residents enjoying their new rooftop as the volunteers packed up and got ready to leave.
The success of these projects is entirely due to the dedication of our members and partners, who started thinking about and planning for these projects six to eight months ago. The feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction was strong for all, whether they helped for the day or were part of the long-term planning for their project. We hope to continue this newfound tradition of service and look forward to planning for next year!
Our sincere thanks to project teams, led by: COOKFOX, Clune Construction Company, Ennead, AIANY ENYA Committee, Francis Cauffman Architects, FXCollaborative, NBBJ, Perkins Eastman, SGVA, and Urbahn Architects.
Also, thank you to our partners, donors and sponsors: Axiom Design & Build, Benjamin Moore, Cosentino Group, ConstructConnect, The Donaldson Organization, Fireclay, General Electric Appliances, Grohe, Interface, Island Architectural Woodwork, Inc., Noel Morgan, Porcelanosa, Sherwin-Williams, Steelcase, Sunbrella, Tech Lighting, TLM Group.