NYCHA Next Generation
This site calls for architecture that aspires to match the rich humanity of its residents: architecture that is forward-looking but contextual, that connects to and enlivens the street but is a place of sanctuary, and that is truly and holistically sustainable. MORRISANIA CROSSING rises to this challenge. The building relates to its context in a meaningful way, in both massing and material while connecting to and enlivening street life. The site provides ample community facility space with programming and spatial character to invite and engage the broader community. The project makes connections, physical and implied, to Railroad Park and the open spaces throughout the neighborhood. Throughout MORRISANIA CROSSING, active design elements encourage resident activity and connection. Finally, MORRISANIA CROSSING is truly progressive and innovative in its approach to sustainability, setting an ambitious standard for affordable housing in New York City.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: THE COMMUNITY BUILDERS (TCB), BRONX WORKS, AND ZERO ENERGY DESIGN
CONTEXT AND ARCHITECTURAL CHARACTER
MORRISANIA CROSSING is inspired by the site, establishing a distinct architectural identity while maintaining a contextual discourse with the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) buildings and open spaces to the south. The building massing proposes a series of dynamic setbacks and 'voids’ carved out of the façade, creating a striking and dramatic profile that distinguishes itself from the box-like quality of typical Quality Housing buildings. Here, we drew inspiration from the rock outcroppings found throughout the Bronx, imagining the building as cliffs carved away over time, with vegetation sprouting up at the rock terraces.
These setbacks serve to break down the façade at the street line and relate to the diversity of scale in the neighborhood. The terraces created by this massing approach step back to accept the southern sun, while minimizing shadows on the street and Railroad Park. The terraces will feature plantings that are diverse in color and scale, softening the edges of the building and relating the park. MORRISANIA CROSSING’s building skin reinforces this aesthetic connection: an aluminum architectural composite panel facade reflects and picks up the colors of the park. The texture and color of the panels recalls not only the rock outcroppings that inspire the massing, but also the tones of the NYCHA facades to the south. The panels will be installed in three shades of aluminum. By varying the surface treatment of a single material, the façade is given life, scale and texture while maintaining cohesiveness and avoiding pastiche.
The material selection for the building skin further reflects the team’s commitment to innovation and durability. The light-weight,
thin panels are a modern material fitting a modern building, and are readily adapted to the super-insulated Passive House façade. The panels were also selected for their durability, a critical requirement for the team. To bring color and warmth to the façade, the window returns are highlighted with accents of yellows, oranges, and reds.
The design strategies used to make the street lively and active extends inside of and throughout MORRISANIA CROSSING.
Play-spaces, fitness centers, gardens and walking paths are programmed throughout the building, encouraging resident
activity and connection. From the building lobby, a monumental stair leads residents to the 2nd floor. Here, adjacent to an interior recreation room, a large glass door leads to an exterior bridge. Across the short walking bridge, residents can access the rear terrace gardens,
with outdoor seating, a walking path and sculptural topography intended to encourage children’s play.
On the 9th floor, a resident fitness room is located directly off the stair and elevator lobby. The glazed wall of the fitness room
reveals the connection to the resident terrace, providing space for gardening and seating. At the main roof, a diversity of active uses are provided. On the eastern wing of the building, a large garden area defines the space. These gardens soften the edges of the street wall facade while providing a sense of sanctuary on the roof. Within the gardens is a large area set aside for the resident gardening program, where
occupants can plant vegetables, flowers and herbs. Winding through the garden paths, several seating areas are provided for
small gatherings. On the western wing of the building, a solar canopy provides shaded exterior space for seating and more active uses such as dance and yoga. Tying the entire roof together is a walking path, that leads residents through the gardens and around the solar
INNOVATION AND SUSTAINABILITY
Though the sustainable features of MORRISANIA CROSSING will be discussed in detail in TAB F – SUSTAINABILITY NARRATIVE, the
Passive House approach figures heavily in our design process, and bears mention in the design narrative.
As an early adapter of Passive House in NYC, Paul A. Castrucci, Architects PLLC has been a leader in implementing the strategy in the City,
specifically advocating for Passive House affordable housing. With steep energy cost reductions and short payback periods, Passive
House designed buildings are truly, and sustainably, affordable to operate. Additionally, Passive House buildings have best-practice
indoor air quality and superior interior comfort. Designing to this standard fits within a broader goal for the firm: affordable housing
should be great housing.
Passive House is fully integrated into the design of MORRISANIA CROSSING, informing the design rather than being pasted on as
an afterthought. This thoughtful integration extends to the garden design, the selection of healthy building materials, and the use
of renewable energy. For MORRISANIA CROSSING, sustainable design is as much a foundational project parameter as the program,
aesthetics, and constructability.
To this end, we propose 200 dwelling units (50 studio, 90 1-bedroom, and 60 2-bedroom units) and nearly 14,000 sf of community facility space, yielding 173,856 of total building square footage.
SPECIAL THANKS: THE COMMUNITY BUILDERS + EDI INTERNATIONAL
The site for Sumner Senior is situated in an open field. Unfenced like those around it, its features have been formed by the natural forces subjected to it by surrounding activity. Shifting, linear foot paths traverse the expanse of the field, as a way for residents to flow freely from one place to the next within the Sumner Home complex. A child sprints unfettered across the green from one playground to the next while her mother pushes a stroller at a slower pace. A small dirt foot path has even been carved leading from one crucial route missed by the original surface layout. These routes buffer a small, central gathering place and playground. Here, a variety of age groups and activities are supported under the shade of a grove of large trees: a cluster of chess tables, benches facing every direction, and a small jungle gym. An elderly man reads the morning paper. A young couple sits side by side on their phones. Those on the go seem to pause here. Benches lining the fenced perimeter greens support the central focus. This is the basis for the design of the Sumner Senior garden landscape: passive line, active point.
SUMNER SENIOR will be designed using the Passive House standard. The Passive House approach has been integrated holistically into the design, rather than pasted on as an additional feature. Passive House is a performance standard that can be reached in a number of ways. The team’s approach is to use the Passive House software to find the right balance of insulation, fenestration, air sealing, and equipment to deliver the Passive House efficiently and economically.
SITE PLAN OVERVIEW
Our design for the landscape for Sumner Senior aims to build upon the prevailing unrestricted condition of the site to incorporate age-friendly design into the redevelopment. The landscape design layers new points of repose over prevailing linear paths. It makes use of these alternating routes to capture activity from the street and surrounding development and weaves it into a calibrated central space, scaled appropriately to support a variety of activities. A permeable, flexible, and dynamic space integrates the qualities found to be important to senior living and park design: spaces that facilitate social support, passive and active zones, a sense of safety and control, and inter-generational interaction . As a place where the passer-by, the by-stander, and the playful can co-mingle, the design stitches the NYCHA community back into surrounding Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
SENIOR PARK - SENIORS PLAY - LANDSCAPE FEATURES
SURFACE, SEATING, EXERCISE
Entrances and paths are well lit and visibility maintained at all points in the park to ensure safety. The concept of the “big porch” realized by the perimeter seating of the amphitheater, senior garden, and the overlooking view of the roof terrace enacts an “eyes on the street” idea to enhance security. This concept is bolstered further by the elevated views of the running hills, the alternating viewpoints to be had from the central forum, and the peripheral perspectives of those on the benches of the periphery.
Paths are activated with solitary benches and clustered seating that facilitates interaction, social support, and simple repose. Small settings with tables & chairs near the lobby, in the large plaza, or around the perimeter are turned inward to face each other or the common forum. A group of chess tables near the senior garden create a zone for various games to happen simultaneously while seating areas surround the exercise equipment of the park offers an alternative to active movement. We propose installing permanent, comfortable benches with backs and arm rests - seating that can take on a variety of shapes and facilitate various spatial conditions within the park - such as the curved bench buried into hill at amphitheater or those that surrounds the central forum.
Surfaces are kept smooth for the ease of the user. Permeable pavers make a continuous transition to the grass of the green plots. Native species are selected for common planted areas and are generally low maintenance, cost effective, and resilient. The site and surrounding gardens are often used for barbecuing during the summer months. TCB/NYCHA and the architects will seek an appropriate site for barbequing on this block if necessary.
COMMUNITY FORUM, STREET & PREVAILING PATH
The landscape is designed to layer various scales of space on an active, open green. It weaves into those spaces healthy activity coming from all sides; events such as theater performances, gardening, chess playing, multi-generational exercise, cooking, painting, and dancing. It maintains focus on the center – surrounded by green - as a flexible gathering place for any and all to use. It aims to bring the pedestrian through the active building and into this space that supports a thriving neighborhood and the movement it generates. The garden design operates off of pre-existing conditions. First, it aims to preserve the open green and maximize unfenced outdoor spaces. It preserves all of the large, existing trees outside of the building footprint. The location of the existing trees guides the design for the paths and placement of design elements on site. It honors prevailing, oblique paths and the viewpoints they produce. These paths are made more concrete in the landscape via a continuous permeable paved surface that adds a visual continuity to their passage. Finally, it maintains the benches and seating along the fences of the perimeter that serve as physical links between our park and the neighboring housing sites and playgrounds.
A central Forum, reminiscent of the one currently there, is formed, buffered, and reached by these landscape features.
The focus on this center, as a gathering spot, brings people into the site via a central axis from the street. The scale of this space is made a slightly bigger than the previous – calibrated to foster privacy and close interaction simultaneously. Small focal points along the edges and paths are disseminated as clusters of seating, exercise equipment, and garden plots to offer alternative resting places. TCB/Architect will work with NYCHA to introduce and integrate children and elderly exercise – playground – active spaces.
In the open areas of the green, three running hills are incorporated as a gesture to the children traversing the site from neighboring playgrounds. They activate the site with a slight visual intrigue and the desire to get to the top. These subtle inclines can also be activated in a more passive way by passers-by as a place to climb, be elevated and observe.
SENIOR GARDEN & ROOF TERRACES
To the northwest, secure entrance of the building, a Senior Garden offers a more secure place for the elderly to exercise, practice Tai Chi, Zumba, or other choreographed movement, to simply sit and observe. This area is encapsulated by a row of hedges which can be supplemented with a fence or fixed barrier if more security is needed. Accessible restrooms available to seniors will be located adjacent to this area.
The 2nd floor roof terrace gardens, reserved for seniors only, will support this open community green as observations decks. On these levels seniors participate in many of the activities below, only in a more secure setting. To the southeast and southwest, raised beds make use of morning and evening sun for planting. Benches line these perimeters, some facing inward toward the roof garden and other out toward the common green. To the northwestern garden, along Marcus Garvey, is reserved for sitting - adjacent to the library - a place for more passive pursuits. A paved path encircles the entire west side to tie these two spaces together and offer seniors a secure walking loop above the street. Accessible restrooms will be located adjacent to these areas.
Roof terrace surfaces are fully planted with the occasional permeable paver to delineate walking path. Vegetable and flower plots are interspersed to offer a variety of permaculture, farming, gardening activity. Their planters are arranged in such a way as to offer easy passage among them, to pull up a chair, or lean against. Planters are calibrated to the general height for comfort to minimize bending over, 30-36” typical counter height, with 2’ deep (4ft total) beds for keeping everything within arm’s length. There is a cistern integrated into the roof terraces that collects rain water to be distributed to irrigate the surround gardens.
COMMUNITY FACILITY PROGRAMMING
The new landscape supports the concept of the big “porch” by developing in-between space that buffers the street, the residence tower, and the garden. Planted zones along Marcus Garvey slows down the traffic of the street and bringing it in along a main central axis and from the south side. TCB/Architect will advocate for solutions, bike lane, speed bumps, narrower street, and bike parking to slow movement and draw people to the building, through the main axis, and into participation in the Forum green. A Senior Garden occurs at a secure entrance
at the northwest corner of the building providing a sheltered vantage point. A amphitheater supports performances that take place indoors and out at the south side. Terrace roof gardens provide a perched outlook from the buildings second floor. These exterior garden spaces link the community with and open ground floor passage. The predominantly glass facade of the ground level allows vision through the active space, from the street, to the garden beyond.
The garden design integrates support for the resident seniors of the building with local community arts programming including mural design, gardening, theater, and a library. To the southwest corner of the building, the landscape supports participation in the community facilities. A set of raised beds for gardening connect to a community kitchen on the ground level while a bermed amphitheater is directed towards the
common performance space. These spaces are designed to be comfortable for seniors to occupy - raised bed calibrated to standing height and comfortable benches integrated into the front row mass of the hill.