East Harlem Center for Living and Learning

Organization Name: Perkins Eastman Architects DPC

Project Title: East Harlem Center for Living and Learning

Project Location: East Harlem, New York

Project Goals:
As a testament to the different uses and user groups of the project, there were numerous goals agreed upon by the client and design teams:
• Inspire a new generation of learners and citizens
• Support all user groups as a multi-use facility
• Reflect a welcoming spirit without compromising safety
• Make the “ideals” visible on the exterior and identifiable to passersby
• Utilize controlled interaction between user groups
• Respond to the immediate needs of the local population
• Improve existing and increase overall public-use spaces
• Design economically, efficiently and sustainably

The East Harlem Center for Living and Learning creates a new model of community for East Harlem by transforming an under-utilized parking lot and trash compactor area on New York City Housing Authority’s (NYCHA) Washington Houses campus into a vibrant mix of open space, affordable housing, non-profit office space, and a charter school for grades K-8.

Project Description:
East Harlem Center for Living and Learning creates a new model of community through a vibrant mix of K-8 charter school, affordable housing, non-profit office space, and park. The unique site—an under-utilized parking and trash compactor lot on NYCHA land–and the optimal building positioning maximize daylighting and views and ensure a distinct identity for each elevation and user group. The school’s ideals of health and well- ness are addressed through the storefront windows of the healthy-eating cafeteria, the gym centered on the school’s main entrance, and the revi- talized park at its front door. A street-level homage to local music legend Yomo Toro communicates that the residential building is of and for the neighborhood; it does not price residents out of their own community. Activity within Harlem RBI’s non-profit office is visible from the street. Finally, the community engages with the facility through the park’s open play areas, multiple seating zones, and places to congregate

Community Impact:
The project achieves the goals of NYCHA and the City by creating a new community hub that integrates with its neighbors and provides opportu- nities for existing residents. Half of the 286 scholars who attend DREAM Charter School are public housing residents, giving them access to a high-performing school facility—the first new school in East Harlem in almost half a century—and a well-respected team of teachers, after-school coaches, and mentors. Yomo Toro Apartments—the lottery for which attracted 77,000 applicants—brings much-needed affordable housing to the community, while it provides pathways to success for residents (30 school employees are residents). The re-imagined Blake Hobbs Park serves Harlem RBI and DREAM Charter School children and their families; 1,200 local children in after-school programs and adjacent PS 38 students; residents of adjacent NYCHA and senior living facilities; Yomo Toro resi- dents; and members of the East Harlem community and general public.

Organization Description:
Creative Design, Humanity, and Purpose. Perkins Eastman is an international planning, design, and consulting firm that was founded in 1981 and is among the largest and most respected design organizations in the world. Today, the firm has a professional staff of almost 1,000 in ten offices across the US and five overseas. The firm prides itself on progressive and inventive design that enhances the human experience while meeting client goals. Because of its depth and range, Perkins Eastman works seamlessly with developers and owners on assignments from niche buildings to complex projects that enrich whole communities. The firm has completed projects in 46 states and more than 40 countries. One of Perkins Eastman’s largest practice specialties is housing, which includes low-income to middle-income to luxury apartment complexes and housing for special populations. The East Harlem Center for Living and Learning combines this expertise with its renowned K-12 and mixed-use expertise. One of Perkins Eastman’s largest practice specialties is housing, which includes low-income to middle-income to luxury apartment complexes and housing for special populations. The East Harlem Center for Living and Learning combines this expertise with its renowned K-12 and mixed-use expertise.

    Entrance to school from renovated park

    Entrance to school from Washington Houses

    Entrance lobby

    Gym connection to lobby and meeting room above

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