Dayton Community Wellness Center an architectural exploration of designâ€™s interaction with the urban community at multiple scales
Copyright © 2013 Erin C. Sánchez 2013. All rights reserved.
Dayton Community Wellness Center an architectural exploration of designâ€™s interaction with the urban community at multiple scales
It really is amazing how an experience such as a thesis project can help you explore and shape who you are. I have learned a lot about myself over the past year, and I have grown so much in only a few months as both a designer and as a person. This exploration has been an incredibly defining experience and I am convinced there will never be another one quite like it. None of this work would have been possible without the provocative questions, insight, support, love and encouragement given to me by the following people to whom I would like to express my deepest gratitude. To Jim Bassett, for your never ending patience and guidance, for never ceasing to encourage and push me farther than I could ever have imagined, and for helping me recognize the true potential of my work, and myself. I could not have done it without you. To my family, especially Mom and Dad, for their never ending support, enthusiasm and love. You never gave up your faith in me, even when I was most discouraged. To Wilson, for keeping me sane throughout the whole process and for making me laugh when I needed it most. To my third years, especially Nick, Tyler, Sean and Heather, for putting up with my crazy days, for making sure that I had something to eat, for asking great questions, and for giving me a fresh perspective when I hit a mental block. To my fellow thesis students, especially Souleymane, Lisa, Emily, Grace, Karen, Janey, Jonathan, David, and Chris. The past year has been an incredible and exciting learning experience and each and every one of you has helped me grow. It takes a village to raise a village. To Chris Pritchett, Marie Paget, and Don Copper for inspiring pivotal moments that shaped the way I thought about my thesis, and especially Chris for always telling me how it is. To Keith and Marie Zawistowski, and my friends at the Community Design Studio for being there at a critical time in my professional development, for proving to me that design can actually serve to benefit humanity, and for furthering my love and passion for community based architecture. Thank you all.
Table of Contents
Site Analysis Land Use Connectivity
14 16 18
Master Plan Interaction: Scales Neighborhood Zoning
22 24 26 28
32 34 36 38 40
Proposal A Community Wellness Center Lower Level Street Level Upper Level
Design Detail The Core Materials
Spatial Order and Interaction Spatial Interactions Interior Streets Order: Exploration Order: Analysis Interaction with Frelinghuysen Interaction with Seth Boyden
Program Interaction Exploration Layers
Program Development Growth Opportunities Physical Health Success Support
42 44 52 58 60 62 64 66 68 70 72 74 76 78 80 82 84
Appendix: Research The Projects The Projects: Seth Boyden
92 94 96
Architectural design is not the only factor in the failure of neighborhoods, but it can be used to create smart, safe, and inspiring environments that can promote interaction among neighbors. This study focuses on a way to use city planning and design theory to create an environment that allows for the opportunity for change. It is an architectural exploration of designâ€™s interaction with the urban community at multiple scales. A community is made of individuals; in order for the community to thrive, all the individual pieces have to work together to create a greater whole. Strengthening the individuals and their interaction with other individuals leads to the strengthening of the entire community. The lack of interaction in the Dayton area can be addressed through architectural design that focuses on providing the possibility for interaction, not just at the scale of the individual, but at multiple scales, so that the people in the neighborhood develop long lasting connections. Programs that can help individuals grow and develop, not only on a personal level but also on a level where they can create strong connections to others, are of utmost importance. Providing opportunities for personal and professional growth, spaces that promote physical health, and centers for success support can help the community create a strong culture for interaction and change in the neighborhood. The proposed community wellness center will shape the possibilities for the site, a seed that may help to regenerate growth in the community and create healthy connections on varied levels. What follows will be up to the community.
â€œThe breakdown of community is the fault of our own indifference of our social, economic, and political institutions and of the basic physical structure and layout of our cities.â€? Ken E. Norwood
Rebuilding Community in America
SITE ANALYSIS: LAND USE In order to determine if an effort to revive the neighborhood through a fresh perspective on urban planning and architectural design was warranted, it was decided that an analysis of the neighborhood and its assets was necessary. Diagramming the relationships within the Dayton neighborhood facilitated an analysis of its proximity to a number of assets considered essential to the success of any urban community. The analysis revealed not only a scarcity of assets sufficient for the success of the community, but conditions that were detrimental to survival. For example, at first glance, the isolation of the area, in relation to the rest of the city, is clearly evident. The absolute segregation of the community from the city as a whole is undeniable. Although only about two miles away, the downtown area is nearly unreachable. The trip would consist of 20 minutes of walking to access a bus route, which would then have to pass under two separate highways and go through a solely industrial district before arriving in another residential area. While the Dayton neighborhoodâ€™s boundaries seem spacious, (Fig. 2,) the population of the area is minimal, confined to a three block wide strip along Route 27. Dayton is also distanced from the rest of the residential part of the city by a number of barriers, the majority of which are highways.
Fig. 1: Aerial View
On the east side, Route 27, locally identified as Frelinghuysen Avenue, defines the separation of the Seth Boyden residential projects from a declining industrial zone, which offers no income support to the residents of the neighborhood. The public housing buildings lay dangerously close to the border with Elizabeth, the neighboring city. Their proximity to the border accentuates their isolation from downtown Newark, (Fig. 3.) On the west side, almost as if teasing, there is a very large park adjacent to the neighborhood, protected behind an imposing ten foot high fence. Weequahic Park, with its well-trimmed golf course, and the abandoned housing projects presents an extreme example of the contrast of wealth and poverty. It is a daily and insulting reminder of the lack of concern of those who have for those who have not, (Fig. 4.) In an area where there is a stark contrast between building types, the projects lie adjacent to several duplexes and single family homes, (Fig. 5.) Because of the activity of Frelinghuysen, some commercial establishments have started up along the edge of the highway, (Fig. 6.) These businesses are creating the opportunity for interaction on the street between multiple scales of movement. These connections could potentially become the growth that inspires the success of a failing neighborhood.
Fig. 2: Dayton Neighborhood
Fig. 3: Newark Border
Fig. 5: Building Density
Fig. 4: Greenspace
Fig. 6: Land Use
SITE ANALYSIS: CONNECTIVITY Important services, such as a local grocery store or daycare, are unavailable within the optimal 15 minute walking radius, (Fig. 7.) Due to the boundaries and lack of businesses and services in the area, people don’t have access to the simple everyday necessities. The lack of proximity to the downtown also creates a strong need for community members to have access to essential public transportation routes that could help them find and retain jobs and other connections throughout the city. Since the majority of families in the neighborhood are of lower-income, most cannot afford to commute to work independent of a public transportation system. Essential transportation routes such as the bus line and railway station aren’t within the 10-15 minute walking radius the community needs, (Figs. 8-9.) Even though a main highway passes through the site, the city isn’t using the street to connect with the Dayton. Even the streets within the neighborhood don’t connect well with each other, (Fig. 10.) Neither the downtown business area nor the extremely important and profitable Liberty International airport are remotely close enough to be deemed accessible by community members for them to gain employment or provide other opportunities. Planes using the airport, which sees millions of visitors each year, fly over the air space of the neighborhood, but do almost nothing to repay it, (Fig. 11.)
Fig. 7: 15 Minute Walking Radius
At every point along the perimeter of the Seth Boyden Projects there is a barrier, a border or some dividing line, (Fig. 10.) Frelinghuysen is an uncrossable highway to an unusable area. The elderly public housing facilities decided the area was too rough to interact with, separating themselves by a twelve foot fence. The wealthy golfers want to keep people off of their greens with their ten foot fence. With a good portion of land being vacant or devoid of opportunity, Dayton is left without a chance for advancement in life, (Fig. 12.)
Fig. 8: Bus Routes
Fig. 9: Railway Stations
Fig. 11: Airport Zone
Fig. 10: Streets and Boundaries
Fig. 12: Vacancies
â€œStreets with lots of opportunities for human interaction are much more likely to be safe than ones without.â€? Eric Damian Kelly Community Planning
INTERACTION: SCALES Positive interaction can exist on multiple levels. The City:
interaction between the neighborhood and the city
The Neighborhood: interaction between members of the neighborhood
interaction between neighbors on the same street
interaction between individuals; from person to person
MASTER PLAN: NEIGHBORHOOD Use
proximity to Frelinghuysen Ave, which connects Dayton to the downtown, added to the presence of the unifying Dayton St. school should be recognized and embraced
Establish Access to Public Transport Systems:
by expanding the bus and light rail lines, individuals can have access to different scales of the city.
Move Towards Connectivity and Permeability:
making a variety of businesses and amenities easily accessible by foot will help Dayton follow the smart growth principle of walkable neighborhoods
establishing a hierarchy of roads that will provide a system for movement within Dayton will give much needed order to the neighborhood and its growth
Isolation and Separation of Neighborhood The isolation of the neighborhood from the city was not the only major factor contributing to the failure of the neighborhood. A second major issue appears to be the arrangement and placement of the projects within the neighborhood. Clearly, the isolation of the northern and southern parts of the residential community is a direct result of the planning and layout of the Dayton neighborhood and the placement of the projects. The boundaries defined by the edges of the industrial district and the large Weequahic Park, in combination with the size and placement of the projects right in the middle of the area, severely limit the ability for interaction between residents of the handful of single family houses on the north side
Uniting of Neighborhood and the few on the south side of the neighborhood. An attempt to walk around the projects was long and lonely. People interviewed did not want to walk through the projects, so they avoided them altogether, thereby also isolating those living in the immediate area to the north and south of the projects. The result is the lack of communication among the members of the neighborhood. People avoid talking to people they don’t know. They don’t know other people because they do not interact with them at the grocery store or the laundromat. The need for those services isn’t more valuable than their need for safety which they find in their own homes, inside, away from the projects.
One of the objectives for this research was to understand the restrictions that the planning for the Dayton neighborhood had placed on the conditions for creating interaction and connections within the community, and improving the functionality, and thereby the quality, of life. To explore the potential for connections within the community, and improve the functionality within the neighborhood, the strengths and weaknesses of the community as a whole needed to be identified. kf
One salient weakness in the layout of the projects is the disconnect of streets within them. There are several dead ends, and a lack of simple through streets. This disconnect prevented vehicular and even pedestrian traffic by anyone not living in the projects. To address this failing, connection of the streets in the area was a priority both within the neighborhood and between city and neighborhood. Therefore, the first step is to remedy the lack of connection. Eliminating dead ends and establishing through streets that connect the existing city structure to itself will better facilitate the movement through and within the site.
MASTER PLAN: ZONING When the exploration began, the projects had been shut down, and were scheduled to be raised. Keeping these buildings in the neighborhood was no longer an option with which anyone was comfortable. As a result, the site was explored as if it were a void, as it was soon to be. The remaining area is about nine blocks of almost entirely empty land, with the exception of a row of houses on the north corner and a well-established elementary school in the south west corner. The school could be viewed as a strength, a solid feature in the neighborhood that provided the sole connection between the north and the south. This institution was the only element left holding the neighborhood together, drawing in all the different parts. Using the school as an anchor, research began to explore different ways that the area could be better planned to suit the needs of the community, in terms of necessities and quality of life.
Proposed Site Institutional Industrial Residential Mixed Use Residential/Commercial Commercial Green Space Public Urban Space Existing
Having already identified the school as a strength as well as the reason for connection between Dayton Street and Frelinghuysen Avenue, investigation turned to look at the possibilities of zoning for mixed use and mixed interest; areas that could be useful for the people in the neighborhood, as well as for attracting visitors. The need for a counterpoint to the anchor found in the school was undeniable. Such a counterpoint would have to be something that could be used to draw the community together just as the school did. It would need to spark the communityâ€™s development and growth as a whole; something that could plant that seed for renewal and hope. It was determined that the best place to put another institution would be diagonally opposite the school. The new design must establish a connection with the school, while simultaneously differentiating itself from it and creating more reason for crosstraffic and growth throughout the area. The goal of this architecture project is not to design a whole neighborhood, but rather to simply lay the groundwork for a successful growth that will develop as a result of this architectural intervention. Proposed Site Institutional Industrial Residential Mixed Use Residential/Commercial Commercial Green Space Public Urban Space
â€œSafety comes from engaging young people in constructive, productive activities.â€? Cory Booker
Mayor of Newark
A COMMUNITY WELLNESS CENTER How do you foster a healthy community? What is needed? physical health growth opportunities success support The idea is to create strong individuals who can create, form, and maintain relationships with their neighbors, and thereby a better sense of community. This center will also pull a variety of people with different interests into a central location, which will architecturally promote connection and interaction among multiple types of groups through the use of visual connectivity. This will help foster a sense of community within the building between people who otherwise might not interact.
Seth Boyden Terrace
Dayton St reet
1. Multipurpose 1a. Storage 2. Restrooms 3. Office 4. Classroom 5. Pool 5a. Office 5b. Storage 5c. Pump Room 6. Basketball Court 7. Locker Room 7a. Women’s 7b. Men’s
6 4 1
2 2 3
N 5b 5
Lower Level 5c 0’
1. Multipurpose 1a. Storage 2. Restrooms 3. Welcome Office 4. Classroom 5. Pool 5a. Viewing Area 6. Basketball Court 7. Library 7a. Office 7b. Circulation 7c. Computer Room 8. Medical Wing 8a. Reception 8b. Patient Rooms 8c. Doctorâ€™s Office 9. Acoustic Room 9a. Office 9b. Practice Room 10. Weight Room 11. Game Room 12. Teaching Kitchen 13. Community Kitchen
8a 8b 8b
7a 6 2 2 3
Street Level 0’
1. Multipurpose 1a. Storage 2. Restrooms 3. Office 3a. Storage 4. Daycare 4a. Reception 4b. Office 4c. Kitchen 4d. Art Room 4e. Outdoor Play Space 5. Community Garden 5a. Office 6. Counseling Wing 6a. Office 6b. Group Meeting 6c. Individual Meeting 7. Track
4b 4b 4a
3a 6a 4e
6c 6c 6b
Upper Level 0’
THE CORE The design called for a core space that would serve multiple functions, an area of gathering and distribution, a heart for the small city of the wellness centerâ€”moving people through its arteries. A sixty foot glass tower rising thirty feet above the tallest point in the roof, the core functions as a guiding light, visible both from the outside, where it serves as a beacon to draw in residents of the neighborhood, and from the inside, where the natural light admitted through the thirty foot curtain wall illuminates the nexus of the interior streets, providing a sense of openness, connection and safety. People who are coming in from any of the entrances pass by a variety of visible activities before reaching the core and then moving on to their destination. The visibility of the activities is designed to encourage their further participation in programs housed in the building. In addition to functioning as a redistribution center on all levels, at the street level the core will also be an interior plaza, safe and protected from the elements. Its varied seating spaces can provide places to get together before or after activities or simply be an interior space where members of the community interact informally, perhaps to discuss announcements placed on the community bulletin board.
Section At Core Scale 1/4” = 1’-0”
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Metal Roofing Concrete Corrugated Metal Decking Waterproofing Insulation Blocking Shims Finish Ceiling Column Beyond Glass Curtain Wall
Detail Section Scale 1” = 1’-0” 46
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Glass Curtain Wall Steel Studs Metal Roofing Waterproofing Insulation Concrete Corrugated Metal Decking Threaded Rod Dropped Ceiling
Detail Section Scale 1” = 1’-0” 48
4 5 6 7
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.
Threaded Rod Dropped Ceiling Column Beyond Glass Balcony Polished Concrete Flooring Corrugated Metal Decking Concrete
Detail Section Scale 1” = 1’-0” 50
MATERIALS Because the building needs to look and behave as a positive catalyst in the neighborhood, the material choices were made for reasons of appearance, durability and symbolism. Both to connect to the existing context, albeit in a fresh way, and to take the neighborhood in a new direction, rather than the typical drab, red brick used throughout “Brick City”, sleek black brick interlocks with brightly colored aluminum cladding in solid or random color patterns to bring a sense of modernity and vibrancy to the area. The brick façade can be power-washed to clean it and, if they are damaged, individual segments of the aluminum cladding can be replaced without disrupting the random design. The name “Brick City” originally symbolized the easy availability of crack bricks as much as the materials of construction. Here, interlocked and working together, equal individual units of brick in combination with equal individual units of varied colored cladding create a cohesive façade, harkening back to the concept of community and individuals in the neighborhood working together to achieve a greater goal. The colors were chosen for the calming effect that blues are known to evoke and their association with the ideas of social interaction and hope.
Section At New Street Scale 1/2” = 1’-0”
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17.
Glass Balcony Grass Aluminum Parapet Water Proofing Flashing Root Resistant Layer Wall Tie Soil Drainage Course Vapor Barrier Concrete Corrugated Metal Decking Insulation Threaded Rod Brick Cladding CMU Dropped Ceiling
Detail Section Scale 1” = 1’-0” 54
2 3 4
5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11.
Concrete Window Sill Column Beyond Brick Flashing Concrete Insulation Wick in Head Joint Water Proofing Crushed Stone Soil Filter Fabric
Detail Section Scale 1” = 1’-0” 56
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
Spatial Order and Interaction
SPATIAL INTERACTIONS The diagrams at the top illustrate how different volumes interact and create form. The interaction and relationships between the volumes creates secondary spaces that are part of multiple volumes. While this was mostly an exploration of the way that different volumes could create form, there is not as much order between the relationships of the volumes. Windows and viewports both between programs, as well as between program and exterior, provide opportunities for visual access to other people and activities that otherwise might not be seen. This visual connection can create curiosity that can help individuals grow and succeed.
In this sketch section, different types of activities in varied spaces can be seen along with the physical connections these spaces have with each other. Windows from a day care could view into the gymnasium where a local team might have basketball practice, for example. 60
City spaces are comprised of streets and gathering areas. While a street is primarily used for movement, it can also be a place for gathering, if activity is allowed. When a business engages the street, it engages the city.
Healthy streets rely on multiple factors. According to Jane Jacobs, diversity of activity and use is one of the most important contributing factors
The path within the building sets a precedent for the activity of the streets within the neighborhood. By creating connections that engage the path, the design accomplishes multiple positive moves. The path becomes lively, and well-looked after because of the activity thatâ€™s going on inside. The connection also promotes 62
to the success of streets and neighborhoods. Streets are safer when they are filled with lifeâ€”active streets create active spaces which are less vulnerable to the effects of crime.
interaction between the individual walking the path and the people inside the rooms along it. One person becomes the viewer, and the other the subject... but this role continuously switches, activating both spaces, as well as the curiosity of the passerby. This activity gives these interior streets strength. 63
After examining the connections to the city and how the site related to the multiple scales of interaction, a series of ordering layouts for the site were done. The layouts explored several concepts for the structure needed for the community, the points of entry that were most important for the people, and the hierarchy of spaces within the building, especially that of the relationship of the core and the path. Three points of access were found to have primary importance, and moves were made to reach out and engage them. While the building is mainly for the community, the access point at the corner of New and Frelinghuysen is important because residents north of Foster Street only have Frelinghuysen to directly connect them with the southern parts of Dayton.
That corner of the building is the only part that accesses the highway that cuts through the area. The other two primary entrances, on Ross and New, and on Ross and Seth Boyden Terrace, also have community entrances, with plaza spaces that encourage interaction and can be used for multiple activities and events. The main entrance area on Ross and Seth Boyden Terrace, which houses a public urban amphitheatre, can be used as social seating when not acting as a performance space. The three principle entrances connect people from different parts of the community and bring them into common space where everyone can interact.
er S tree t
Seth Boyden Terrace
Dayton St reet
ORDER: ANALYSIS When thinking about space in an insecure neighborhood, the question of safety is always a concern. Certain layouts and spatial relationships allow for a more controlled environment that can discourage unacceptable behavior. By using a system that creates only primary paths through the building, the individual is never in a space which is unwatchable, and therefore unsafe. Creating the greatest opportunity for interaction was a priority for the design because it significantly contributes to the strength of the community as a whole. Lack of interaction and trust among neighbors reduces concern for the welfare of the street or the community. Studying the relationships between different entry points, and examining the importance of order within the building in a variety of layouts, the strongest idea clearly presented itself: a simple system to order the building allowing only for main hallways and one central space that is visible from any point in the building and that could distribute the individual to any other point. This core and path system provides a clear means to navigate the building, eliminating the need for a confusing secondary path system.
This sketch perspective from Frelinghuysen Avenue, the main road in the area, again shows the importance of visual connectivity to the activity happening inside, as well as the buildingâ€™s interaction with the street. Because this is a building mainly for the Dayton neighborhood, the building addresses the main street but does not meet it. The wellness center is for the community rather than the city.
This sketch section rendering of the natatorium of the building demonstrates its visual connection to the street. The purpose of this design would be to get passersby involved and curious about what is happening inside the building. Additionally, the visual connectivity will promote interaction among viewers on the outside, viewers on the inside, and between the two groups. A person is more likely to randomly strike up a conversation with a stranger if there is a reason to talk to them. That reason could be that you have a common view to share or that you have seen them on a few previous occasions in the same place.
PROGRAM INTERACTION: EXPLORATION
The relationships among the three different types of program are extremely important. Some program is meant to be seen â€“ very visually accessible, activities to be shared with the community. Other types of program are more secluded, more focused on the growth of the individual and the self. The placement and dialogue of several types of program create a rich interactive environment that provides opportunities for members of the community to connect. In these diagrams, the red portions are moments focused on physical health, the green areas are for programs focused on growth opportunities, and the blue areas are centered on the success support of the individual and the community. Physical Health Growth Opportunities
PROGRAM INTERACTION: LAYERS The interaction of the three programs on each level of the building relies on their relation to the physical environment. Though some elements, especially those within the program of success support, have specific requirements for privacy and degree of separation from other programs, the interweaving of the different elements of programs allows individuals who are using the building, perhaps for very different reasons, to interact with each other. In addition, purposely locating rooms beyond other spaces forces individuals to walk through one space to access another, a design choice intended to promote interest in the activity or initiate an interaction with someone new. Different programs also interact with each other in the same space, where activities or sub-programs are associated with two of the main programs. For example: use of the pool, especially initially when people are first learning how to swim, qualifies as both a physicallyfocused program and a growth opportunity. The overlap and layering of these programs within spaces work together to create a rich and constructive environment for members of the Dayton community.
Street Level 76
GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES One segment of the program of the wellness center will focus on growth opportunities, the purpose of which is to facilitate the development of individuals capable of creating, forming, and maintaining relationships. In order to accomplish this, first the individual has to have a strong, positive sense of self. The spaces and activities dedicated to this program are designed to help people, especially youth, explore themselves through the various opportunities that can take place in the building. Senior members of the community can share family recipes and teach younger generations the art of cooking and foster cross-generational connections beyond the limits of the family. Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts or other similar youth groups might meet and work on service projects; children might get the chance to learn how to play an instrument or take a class in fine or performance arts. The individual might discover something about himself and his abilities. Adults and youth alike can learn how to swim, an opportunity not often available to urban community members. Such program elements will help teach individuals self-worth and discipline. Activities that can inspire and excite individuals can keep them involved, and help dispel the boredom that is so dangerous in urban environments. Group activities such as a drill team or dance group will not only help the individual excel and make connections with other people, they will help them feel like they belong to something greater than themselves. They will also teach them the skills necessary and the importance of working with other people as a unit in order to accomplish a goal. They will develop a sense of responsibility and recognition of their significance for the group to function together as a whole.
The inclusion of a community garden provides the opportunity not only to teach the importance of care through agriculture but also to grow foods that will eventually be used to nourish their bodies. Garden workers of all ages can take home food they grew with pride and prepare it to eat for dinner. Exposure to multiple types of growth activities can help individuals develop and hone their personal skills and talents as well as themselves as people.
PHYSICAL HEALTH One essential element to the wellness of the individual is the physical aspect. Keeping oneâ€™s self physically fit and healthy can help strengthen the feeling of self-worth and self-respect in individuals. Programs put in place to teach or improve exercise techniques and swimming, as well as the use of two basketball courts, can offer people, especially youth, the opportunity to work towards a personal goal or just have fun. A swimming pool can not only provide entertainment, but it can also be used to teach an important life skill. It can also help create successful swimmers who can compete against other local swim teams, instilling pride in the neighborhood. Accessibility to a dietitian might allow the use of the center for clinics and workshops that would help people cook better, smarter, and healthier.
In addition, while there are no doctor or dentist offices that are within an acceptable distance of the neighborhood, there are many people who need health care in the area, especially those living in the elderly housing project across the street from the Ross and New entrance to the building. The site should take advantage of one of Newarkâ€™s greatest assets, the most successful school of medicine and dentistry in New Jersey, UMDNJ, which has a campus right in downtown Newark. UMDNJ has a long history of offering outreach medical and dental services through satellite offices in low income neighborhoods. Taking advantage of this opportunity for a clinic within the building, open directly to the street, would help people in the neighborhood get the care they deserve and need; care they would otherwise not be able to get. 83
SUCCESS SUPPORT The third program is centered around providing support for the community members. To provide support for those in school, a library in the community center can offer space for students to do homework as well as help to open up a world of information to students and parents alike. The library also contains a computer room where individuals can take classes and learn how to use them to apply for jobs and do research for school assignments and projects. This is especially important for the residents of Dayton because unlike their counterparts in suburban neighborhoods, most of the families donâ€™t have computers of their own. Daycare facilities located conveniently within the neighborhood can allow parents with pre-school age children to go to work without having to worry about the safety and well-being of their children. This is especially advantageous to single parents and young families in the area. Classrooms of various sizes provide space for many different educational activities. For example, financial management classes can be offered to help families, who have little or no knowledge or training, learn about money management and savings so that they can be more successful financially.
There is a strong stigma in urban neighborhoods about going to see a counselor or psychiatrist. Typically, waiting rooms within counseling centers are very open, leaving everyone exposed to the discomfort and criticism that could come from their peers. By designing separate waiting spaces for each office, individuals are removed from the discomfort of the gaze of their peers. Whether there voluntarily for personal reasons or on a court order, the counseling wing can provide much needed help and support. The counseling center also has group counseling rooms that can help members of the community help each other and work together to overcome their struggles. 85
â€œA journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.â€? Lao-Tzu
The journey from investigation to design of the Dayton Community Wellness Center was a challenging and exciting learning experience. The chance to provide the seed to plant that grows a healthy community was something that could not be passed up. Reinventing an area doesn’t have to mean complete disregard for the inhabitants or the history of the area, it just means regenerating with a sense of freshness that cannot be matched. Helping the individuals reconnect and the area reestablish itself was far more rewarding to me than designing for gentrification of the neighborhood, which merely displaces the problems and does nothing to solve them. It is clear that there are multiple factors contributing to the decay of failing neighborhoods, but while some of them are uncontrollable, others can be manipulated to provide even the very simplest groundwork for regeneration. Revitalizing the neighborhoods and the relationships neighbors have with one another isn’t totally accomplishable by architecture or design—nothing is ever that simple. But why should we let poorly designed infrastructure, accessibility, or buildings get in the way of providing everything we can to help people help themselves? People can’t always achieve goals by themselves, but just that little bit of help, caring, consideration, that push from others, can change so many lives in the process. Architecture isn’t usually thought of as social, but it can provide the spaces in which people are socially interactive, the spaces that shape individuals, who in turn can shape communities.
“How can I survive?... the Lord can’t see us in the deep dark clouds of the projects, ain’t no sunshine, no sunny days.” Tupac Shakur
THE PROJECTS For decades government efforts to house the poor have relied on the construction of subsidized housing plots more commonly known as “projects.” That term, originally used to describe the improvement projects city planners and architects believed these developments would amount to, has instead become synonymous with inner city blight and crime. Today, urban legend, news reports and rap lyrics detail the deadening effects of concentrated poverty and misguided public policy that these “projects” have become. People are crammed into tight living conditions, without hope, without positive role models, with very little desire to improve or keep going. These places aren’t supportive of people who live there. In fact, most of the time the projects, originally designed with good intentions, have failed in everything they set out to do.
Projects: the Definition A form of housing in which the property is owned by a government authority, either central or local. The common goal is to maintain affordable housing, and provide improved conditions and opportunity to tenants. The details of the arrangements differ among projects.
Projects: the Perception Usually a group of high-rise buildings made for low income/homeless people to live in. Projects are dangerous, dirty, filled with gangsters, drug dealers, pimps, hookers and such. The first set of projects built was made primarily for African-Americans, but now tenant population can be very diverse. Drug dealers, pimps, hookers and such. The first set of projects built was made primarily for AfricanAmericans, but no 95
THE PROJECTS: SETH BOYDEN Although originally well-intentioned, the “projects” designed by city planners for low-income families are designed with disregard to the existing city structure, often isolating the people who need accessibility to available job opportunities and support systems. The flaw in housing projects rests in their planning and their design. Just like many other housing projects before them, the Seth Boyden Projects in Newark, NJ, have created a self-destructive environment for those who live in and around them. Their isolation from the successful downtown area, inaccessibility to public transport, and lack of positive connection to the surrounding neighborhood has created a set of conditions that prevent all sense of communal worth for the neighborhood. When people lack connection to others and pride in their area, they don’t care what happens on the street, because it doesn’t feel like their street.
The safety of the neighborhood deteriorated over time as the prevalence of drugs and crime continually increased and their negative influences worsened. In a manner similar to that of dozens of others before them, the Seth Boyden housing projects were closed down by the local government and tenants were evicted from the premises, leaving buildings, once meant to be hope-inspiring, vacant and terrifying. The few families that remained, when this architectural study began, were living in what was literally a ghost town, seemingly rejected by residents of nearby homes and elderly housing, the wealthy who use the golf course across the street, workers in the declining industrial district, and even their own neighbors, who had left the god-forsaken area as quickly as they could.