Brooklyn, New York, 2009

During the site feasibility phase of the project Damyanti and the Polshek architectural team along with geotechnical and structural engineers analyzed the site condition and identified level of complexity and a cost premium to build on this site that was vacant and sometimes a parking lot since the subway construction in 1930s. Immediately below the site are 3 subway tunnels, two active, crisscrossing over 45% of the site. The foundation design and approval process required complex, time consuming reviews and negotiations with the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

Working with the client, Common Ground Community and Actor’s Fund of
America the design team established the project program that included supportive housing for 217 single adults, half of whom were formerly homeless, and a multi purpose flexible theater for residents’ programs and productions as some were actors. Common Ground Community provides on-site job training and counseling services to the residents. Area for these was included in the project. Street level storefront was made available to Brooklyn Ballet, a professional not-for-profit dance company and ballet school, making the building truly a community facility.

In response to the unique site conditions the design responded with four steel trusses cantilevering the building over the subway tunnels. Building loads were carried into the ground, 100 – 34” diameter caissons 50’-75’deep. Those close to the subway tunnel were
sleeved, not to impact the existing tunnel walls. Set atop the trusses, the building’s exterior
identity evolved to express the rigorously ordered program within. Design addressed the contrasting character of the neighborhoods. The building’s primary northern façade, composed of five translucent channel glass tower elements rising from a transparent glass
base, presents a dignified luminous presence to the dense urban fabric of downtown Brooklyn; the south façade, defined by horizontal banding of glass and cement board panels, hovers above a landscaped roof terrace on the second level that provides a transition to the low-scale residential neighborhood beyond. Support services and common amenities are located at this level. Though construction budget did not support pursuit of LEED certification, sustainable design principles informed the selection of systems, equipment and materials for the project.

Grants from NYSERDA paid for some of the systems. The building’s channel glass façade is fabricated with a high percentage of post-industrial waste glass and Low E glazing to enhance overall thermal performance. Additionally, the second floor “green” roof terrace serves to
minimize heat island effect. Energy efficient appliances and systems are incorporated throughout the building. Main roof was designed to “become a green roof” when funds could be available.

Percent for Art paid for the “marquee wall” in the lobby of the Actor’s Fund Theater.