Organization Name: RKTB Architects, P.C.
Project Title: East Clarke Place Court
Project Location: Grand Concourse Corridor, Bronx, NY
The goals of East Clarke Place Court were to create a livable, attractive design that promotes a sense of community; relates to its neighborhood context; and could be built within stringent budgetary constraints ($124 per SF) while satisfying the myriad zoning, building code and public agency requirements. RKTB has over its many years of designing affordable housing developed strategies for achieving a high level of design quality while working within tight budgets, i.e. getting “the most bang for the buck.” An example of this can be seen in the manner in which the block and plank structural system, which was used in this project for budgetary reasons, was handled to modulate and give scale to what is traditionally a static pattern of windows inserted into large areas of solid wall. This was accomplished by utilizing a pallet of multicolored bricks which creates a pattern reminiscent of a woven fabric that continues on all faces of the buildings.
Developed on a vacant city-owned lot, this is a successful example of a public-private collaboration. The mixed-use HPD project combines two properties into one complex with 106 low-income rental units: 12 E. Clarke Pl. (11 stories, 73 units) and 27 E. 169th St. (13-stories, 33 units occupied by formerly homeless residents). While its architecture was inspired by local Art Deco buildings the lively interplay of brick on its facades gives the project a distinctive identity and achieves the greatest impact on a limited budget. The architects pushed the block and plank structure to create unusually large windows that let in abundant light and elevate the residential experience, and the unconventional design maximized floor area for an optimal return on the property. Interiors are also a higher quality than usual for affordable housing. Built under NYC’s Quality Housing program it was one of the first projects to meet the criteria of the Enterprise Green Communities program.
The project creates a community asset that exceeds standards for affordable housing and is one of the first to meet the criteria of Enterprise Green Communities, a program that creates cost-effective, sustainable architecture for low-income families. It features distinctive architecture, a shared outdoor courtyard, high-quality finishes and energy-saving features—all components of a sustainable community. While courtyards are not typical for today’s affordable housing projects, this urban outdoor space is clean, safe and protected. Connected by a below-grade parking garage, the buildings also share a tenants’ recreation room, rentable community space and laundry facilities. Upon its completion Steve Goodstein wrote an article for the BRONX TIMES entitled “New Housing Complex Looks Unaffordable,” stating East Clarke Place Court “has vastly improved the lifestyle of its residents and the neighborhood, greatly exceeding the standards of living that typical NYC affordable housing
has to offer.”
RKTB is an award-winning, full-service architectural firm that has been designing residential and academic buildings as well as cultural, commercial, health care and transportation facilities for a wide range of clients since its establishment in 1963. The practice has been based upon a simple philosophy: to meet its clients’ specific goals while recognizing the broader imperatives of civic responsibility. Forged over half a century of constantly changing conditions, this has earned its architects the reputation of being well-respected and recognized leaders among New York City’s design professionals. Among its accomplishments, RKTB created an innovative “Smart Housing” infill prototype that has renewed neighborhoods throughout the city by replacing vacant lots with affordable housing. Formerly known as Rothzeid Kaiserman Thomson & Bee, P.C. and RKT&B, the firm is also widely recognized for its pioneering work in adaptive reuse—the most fundamental form of sustainable architecture.