A socially and politically active community was born in 1932. Henceforth, 1199 S.E.I.U became the space for social justice in the city of New York. Addressing himself as fellow 1199er six weeks before his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech to the 1199 membered union, who stood cohesively to eliminate poverty and injustice in the context of American Labor. 

The union has progressed to 4 lakh members, the largest healthcare workers’ union in the country currently. The headquarters was motivated to yield a new location at the base of 498 seventh avenue in Manhattan, a few blocks far to accompany the soaring membership.

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Former headquarter of 1199 S.E.I.U at 310 west 43rd street_©Amr Alfiky.

From the typical street of New York, the new union building welcomes its fellow members and visitors at arrival with a replicated mural depicting its hospital, guilt, and drug division workers at work, strikes, attending classes, and resting. Originally the artwork was captured by Anton Refregier in 1930 at its former headquarter building façade rendered with colorful glass mosaic tiles. The mural recreated by artist Stephen Mitto travels partly from the escalator wall to the backdrop of the headquarters lobby space. The mural imagery further elevates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., delivering his speech to the 1199 members of the union, holding their hopes as high as the volumetric central circulation space.

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Originally created mural by Anton Refregier replicated at the new lobby space_©Dror Baldinger
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Mural replicated by artisan Stephen Miotto_©Dror Baldinger
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Mural of Martin Luther King Jr. giving ‘Salute to Freedom’ Speech to 1199 members in 1968_©Afasiaarchzine.com

Interior Design of New Headquarter Building 

Adjaye Associates was founded in 2000 by Ghanaian-British Architect Sir David Adjaye OBE, recipient of the 2021 Royal gold medal approved by Her Majesty. In 2018, the firm was commissioned to design the interiors of public floors of the Healthcare union’s new headquarter in Manhattan, New York with the sole aim to reflect immortality honoring the sentiments of the worker’s union. The firm dived into the history of the union and established a symbolic expression through artistic and cultural sensibility with a large-scale vision of place-making and giving identity, meaning, and memory to the spaces.

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Section facing north of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com

Within the McGraw Hill Building, the public floor covers 16,500 square feet of the area of the 4-story structure with lounges, galleries, meeting rooms, and a library accessed by exhibition-cum-circulatory passages. The long walls canvases stories of the past taking physical form through art, language, and design that empowers its workers and immerses its visitors with empathy.

The new office headquarters promotes a monumental form within the community space that benefits the office and other areas functioning within the organization. As the visitor ascends through stairs or elevators to the spaces on level two, black and white murals warp history through an array of images that archive pivotal moments in the union. The physical journey through the structure familiarizes its visitors to the legacy of the historical alliance by ‘The Other America’. Excerpts from the poem,’ Bread (training/employment/healthcare) and roses (wellness/pension/retirement)’, composed by James Oppenheim got embedded in bronze adjacent to sheroes and heroes of the unions on the surfaces of levels three and four.

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Interior murals of the public member space_©Dror Baldinger.

The four levels connect with a central atrium with precast terrazzo staircases for circulation. The glass guardrails are rimmed partially by brass frames end to end. The quotes on the wall in bronze contrast the large-scale monochromatic photographs digitized floor to ceiling scale murals of 2 inches square ceramic tiles. Glass-fiber reinforced gypsum cement ceiling hovers above with led lights seamlessly fitted within the vacant continuous barrel vaults. The brass thresholds form a frame to the plain matt black doors to open with satin brass door handles designed by David Adjaye.

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The bread and roses union art gallery _©Dror Baldinger.
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Black and white achieve photos of the pivotal moments of the union_©Christina Buscarino.
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The bread and roses union art gallery_©Dror Baldinger.

Architectural Drawings of Healthcare Workers Union HQ, New York, USA.

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Site plan of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Ground floor plan of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Level 2 floor plan of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Level 3 floor plan of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Level 4 floor plan of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Section facing south of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Axonometric view of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com
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Building section of 1199 SEIU united healthcare worker east_©Afasiaarchzine.com

The new headquarter building interior artwork by Adjaye Associates re-roots the authenticity of the original 1199 members of the workers’ union. The structure celebrates the progressive spirit of the community of 1199 SEIU healthcare workers and instills pride within them.

The Two hands at the center of the huge mural in the lobby exchange a leaflet that reads, ‘If there is no struggle there can be no progress.’

If there is no struggle, there is no progress_©Dror Baldinger.

References:

  1. Adjaye Associates.1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, New York, New York, USA. Available at: https://www.adjaye.com/work/1199-seiu-united-healthcare-workers-east/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  2. Pinto, P. (2020). 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Public Member Spaces / Adjaye Associates. Arch Daily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/950415/1199seiu-united-healthcare-workers-east-public-member-spaces-adjaye-associates/5f99a32263c01782cd0009b6-1199seiu-united-healthcare-workers-east-public-member-spaces-adjaye-associates-section [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  3. Gattupalli, A. (2020). Adjaye Associates capture history through tiled murals at 1199SEIU healthcare union HQ. Stir World. Available at https://www.stirworld.com/see-news-adjaye-associates-capture-history-through-tiled-murals-at-1199seiu-healthcare-union-hq [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  4. Bernstein, F. (2021). Adjaye Associates Designs the Manhattan Headquarters of the Largest Healthcare-Workers Union in the U.S. Interior Design. Available at: https://interiordesign.net/designwire/adjaye-associates-designs-the-manhattan-headquarters-of-the-largest-healthcare-workers-union-in-the-u-s/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  5. Shiell, A. (2020). 1199 SEIU united healthcare workers east embodies the principles, history, and achievements of the organization. Archello. Available at:  https://archello.com/fr/news/1199seiu-united-healthcare-workers-east-embodies-the-principles-history-and-achievements-of-the-organization [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  6. Afasia Archzine. (2020). David Adjaye 1199seiu united healthcare workers east New York. Afasia Archzine. Available at: https://afasiaarchzine.com/2020/10/david-adjaye-1199seiu-united-healthcare-workers-east-new-york/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  7. Russell, J. (2021). The Union Moved. The Beloved Mosaic Mural Couldn’t. The New York times. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/23/arts/design/union-mural-king-adjaye.html [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  8. Medina, S. (2020). The house that essential workers built. The architect’s newspaper. Available at: https://www.archpaper.com/2020/10/history-of-1199seiu-and-american-labor-unions-new-adjaye-associates-home/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  9. Barba, J. (2020). Bread and roses. Member spaces at 1199seiu united healthcare workers east’s Manhattan headquarters by Adjaye associates. Metalocus. Available at: https://www.metalocus.es/en/news/bread-and-roses-member-spaces-1199seiu-united-healthcare-workers-easts-manhattan-headquarters-adjaye-associates  [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  10. Teague, L. (2021). Community spaces benefit offices. Here’s a museum-like example by Adjaye associates. Frame. Available at: https://frameweb.com/article/1199-seiu-adjaye-associates Accessed [1 October 2021].
  11. Miller, L. (2020). Adjaye Associates Recently Completes Public Member Spaces for 1199SEIU, AIA New York. Available at: https://www.aiany.org/news/in-the-news-187/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  12. Alexander, L. (2021). How David Adjaye became the world’s most beguiling public architect – and its most subversive. Robb Report. Available at: https://robbreport.com/lifestyle/news/architect-sir-david-adjaye-profile-1234576245/ [Accessed 1 October 2021].
  13. Wikipedia. Wiki wand David Adjaye. Available at:  https://www.wikiwand.com/en/David_Adjaye [Accessed 1 October 2021].
Author

Nikita believes in constantly feeding all her curiosity by learning, unlearning and relearning. Being deeply passionate about trying things first hand, nothing thrills her more than adventures and new experiences refusing to missing out things in life. When in her me time she enjoys reading fictions and expresses through poems.

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