Phase One Project Overview
When the project first began in September, 2004, the AFHny team met with Kellie Terry-Sepulveda and other Point staff members to tour their building, learn more about their programs and to discuss their needs. Rather than a single project as expected, it quickly became apparent that we could provide assistance with many different areas of their facility. From this initial meeting and a follow-up questionnaire, we produced a booklet analyzing the Point’s existing conditions and outlining areas of potential work: Public Face (entrances), Outdoor Space (courtyard, outdoor classroom) and Indoor Space (storage, second floor classroom, music studio).We presented this information to the Point staff at a charrette in February of 2005, during which storage emerged as both the most pressing issue at the Point and a relatively simple task for us to tackle as our first phase.Based on the limited timeframe and budget, we decided to begin by designing and fabricating benches to line the perimeter of the Point’s atrium (its main activity space). The benches provide a two-fold solution for the Point: additional seating for the students and storage areas for book bags. We designed the benches with a low physical and visual profile, since the true focus of the space is the students’ artwork. We purchased materials from Home Depot with funds from the Point; a grant from AFH International covered other materials and supplies. The first two and a half weekends of construction took place in a wood shop in a live/work space in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, donated by Kellam Clark. Carey Clark, an art teacher at the Point, donated her Hunts Point art studio for the remaining work. The second phase of storage work is to be the construction of the remaining AFHny-designed atrium furniture, described in the third booklet. This will include shelving for a more defined library area, a coat rack and additional book bag storage, a system for containing trash and recycle cans, a display center, a vending machine nook, and a ticket counter.
The following are some observations and lessons learned from the planning, design and construction phases of the project:A careful balance of personalities and expertise needs to be maintained for the group to be productive. Being sensitive to members’ time commitments and interests is crucial to a successful project team. The strategy we initially took was to assign each member a design task, which she or he would then present to the group for discussion and refinement. The group found however that coming together for weekend design was more effective than individual efforts, and the final atrium storage design successfully incorporated ideas from every group member.Communication with the Point was inconsistent, which lead to delays in planning and design. For future phases, clearer lines of communication will need to be established.A lack of sufficient shop space to produce and finish the benches hindered the construction process. The logistics of moving the materials from a Brooklyn wood shop to a Bronx art studio proved cumbersome as well. Adequate shop space for production and finishing, plus reliable transportation, will be required for additional work.While all the AFHny team members participated in the construction of the benches, the work suffered at times from a lack of skilled people to assist those who were not experienced. This increased our construction time by several weeks.One goal of the AFHny team was to involve the Point staff and students in the construction process. We explored the option of having the Point students help paint the benches, but this idea was unrealized due to time constraints. This idea though should be explored again in future phases, to make this a truly collaborative effort.
The Point Community Development is a non-profit organization dedicated to youth development and cultural and economic revitalization of the Hunts Point section of the South Bronx. The Point works with neighbors to celebrate the life and art of a community,an area traditionally defined solely in terms of its poverty, crime rate, poor schools, and sub-standard housing. The Point believe the area’s residents, their talents and aspirations, are their greatest assets. Link: www.thepoint.org
Architecture For Humanity New York (AFHny) is a New York City based group of design professionals promoting socially responsible volunteerism through design advocacy, public education, and community action.
In neighborhoods like Hunts Point in the South Bronx, concern for cultural and arts programs often take a backseat to worries about money and crime. The Point CDC exemplifies a different set of priorities; the organization runs children’s programs in music, art, and performance; presents gallery exhibitions; and houses small businesses.
But The Point’s extensive programming has grown faster than its building. AFHny and The Point collaborated to envision the future of the organization’s physical structure. Working closely with the surrounding community, The Point achieves revitalization without gentrification.We followed The Point’s lead by engaging their enthusiastic staff of artists and educators in the design charrette process.
Frontline/The World June 2008