Roberta Washington Architects (RWA) was established in 1983 as a leading architecture firm. The firm is amongst a few led by African American women with its head office located in New York. Specializing in health centers, educational facilities, and affordable housing projects, the focus is kept on material exploration along with various construction techniques to create the best construction approach. Other projects include rehabilitation and renovation of various buildings for low and middle- income housing projects. The intent is to work in sync with clients and respond to their needs in the best possible manner keeping in mind originality and offering leading design solutions within confining budgets.

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022

Here is a list of 15 iconic projects by Roberta Washington Architects:

1. Bernard Environmental Magnet School, New Haven CT

This institutional project is a renovation and expansion project to create a school campus that has earned a LEED gold certification from the US green building council. The vision of the school is to create a dynamic and diverse science-based learning community for students by empowering the students to learn about the environment they wish to create and act upon global problems. The spaces and areas added after the renovation of the existing elementary school building are a nature center focussing on environmental sciences. Unique features in the school include one of the largest photovoltaic systems in Connecticut, courtyard garden and two greenhouses, school-based health clinic suite and extra focus on distance learning by having a special computer lab and library for it. To make the students understand better about environmental science, there is a fish hatchery and a nature classroom in the West river memorial park consisting of about 200 acres of underdeveloped water and brackish marsh.

Barnard Environmental magnet school © www.nhps.net
Barnard Environmental magnet school © www.newhavenmagnetschools.com
Barnard Environmental magnet school © www.newhavenmagnetschools.com

2. Astor Row Porches, New York

It is a restoration project of 28 wooden porches that focuses on restoring historical elements with contemporary takeover which was built by William Astor in the early 1880s. Built with shady front gardens creating a tranquil environment with each double building sharing one porch constructed in Victorian style these became landmarks because of their architectural character and their unique porch design. An unusual concept in Manhattan by the year 1990, most of the porches were in a dilapidated condition which required restoration of the porches, the roof as well as the masonry. The community came together to restore the porches and the façade. Today they look pretty much the same as they were originally built, nonetheless, these have created a streetscape with its exclusive identity filled with beautiful gardens and front yards.

Astor Row Porches © robertawashington.com
Astor Row Porches © untappedcities.com
Astor Row Porches © untappedcities.com

3. 1400 Fifth Avenue, New York

Named as Harlem’s first “green” and “smart” building, it is notable for its ecological impact with more than 60 percent of the materials used for its construction being either recyclable or renewable; the building consumes 25 percent energy as per the New York energy code. The salient features of the building include a geothermal heating/cooling system, superior indoor air quality, bamboo floor in every unit, and pre-wired communication and technology. It is a mix-use building complex which consists of 128 residential units over 8 floors with one floor dedicated to commercial and rental purposes. The 1400 fifth avenue is awarded the largest affordable green residential complex in the country since its completion.

1400 Fifth Avenue © www.bwaf.org
1400 Fifth Avenue © www.landmarkbranding.com
1400 Fifth Avenue © www.landmarkbranding.com

4. Heckscher Theatre, New York

The Heckscher theatre was known as El Teatro at El Museo del Barrio is an iconic theatre which was designed for various types of performances and has hosted one of the longest runs of an off-off-Broadway show. Now used for lectures and special events, the theatre was taken up for renovation with changes made in the stage lighting and drapery, air conditioning of adjacent art galleries inclusive of light and sound adjustments, and fine art preservation. The most important space after renovation became the museum which is considered as one of the jewels- reviving history. Other important improvements include a custom style seating with the balcony seating getting converted to a green room, overall air conditioning without disrupting the original ceiling fabric and safety systems. Interiors of the theatre are one of a kind consisting of an arched stage, a series of 30-foot fairytale murals, stained glass roundels, and refurbished pendant lights that are hung to flank the stage.

Rethinking The Future Awards 2022
Heckscher theatre © robertawashington.com
Heckscher theatre © robertawashington.com
Heckscher theatre © architecturaldigest.com
Heckscher theatre © architecturaldigest.com

 

5. Museums at 18th & Vine, Kansas City

One of the most celebrated museums, this American jazz museum pays a tribute to the top jazz musicians. The project included restoration and the interior design of the building marked as El Capitan which houses the jazz club, museum, and the administration area. The revitalization added to the neighborhood which once remained abandoned and deteriorated. The interior exhibits are immersive to create an interactive environment for the visitor by providing information about the history of the area. The new addition to the museum will house the Negro baseball museum and a grand lobby.

Museums at 18th & Vine © www.robertawashington.com
Museums at 18th & Vine © www.visitkc.com
Museums at 18th & Vine © www.visitkc.com

6. Harmony House, New York

 A rehabilitation project with an addition of three floors, two buildings are combined to create a supportive residence for 68 self-sufficient, homeless adults. These studio apartments are designed with a kitchen and bathroom unit. Common spaces include a commercial kitchen and large dining space for all residents, recreation space, laundry room, exam rooms, and office area- social services office. A terrace on the roof is also created for residents as a breakout and open space.

Harmony house © www.robertawashington.com
Harmony house © www.robertawashington.com
Harmony house © apartmenthomeliving.com

7. African Burial Ground Interpretive Center, New York

The design of the interpretive center is to attract the general public and researchers that have a keen interest in understanding the history of African Burial Ground. Marked as a national historic landmark in 1993, the burial ground is expected to promote understanding of research and present interpretive opportunities to the visitors which honors the contributions of generations of Africans and Americans of African descent. The interpretive center is accompanied by an external memorial at the site with 415 colonial-era graves and is now designated as a National landmark. The exhibits are related to the study of science depicted by the media with audiovisuals along with a theatre space as well.

African Burial ground interpretive center © www.americanheritage.com
African Burial ground interpretive center © robertawashington.com
African Burial ground interpretive center © robertawashington.com
African Burial ground interpretive center © robertawashington.com

8. Harlem International Trade Centre, New York

Developing a master plan for a 26 storey mixed-use complex along with conceptual studies for the same was the objective of the project. A hotel, conference & convention center and an office tower were integrated into the proposal. The main features of the complex incorporated multipurpose rooms, 15,000 sq ft of retail space, open span ballrooms up to 7,500 sq ft, and a rooftop park were planned in two different schemes.

Harlem International Trade center © robertawashington.com
Harlem International Trade center © robertawashington.com
Harlem International Trade center © robertawashington.com

9. Park Place Station Fraklin Ave Shuttle, New York

An interesting project in New York, the design is a schematic for five stations which is planned in a way that connects two major express lines in Brooklyn. Architectural features like railing, windows, canopies, roof treatments, and finishes that are used throughout the station are selected to replicate and provide a reference to the station that existed before and other station designs from that era to gain the character of the 1940s D line stations. Special attention has been provided for handicapped travelers due to the Medical center which became a major criterion for site development.

Park place station franklin ave shuttle © robertawashington.com
Park place station franklin ave shuttle © robertawashington.com
Park place station franklin ave shuttle © robertawashington.com

10. Cecil Parker Elementary School, Mount Vernon

A renovation project was taken up to add new spaces in a school complex such as a cafeteria, kitchen, and additional space of approximately 4000 sq ft for students. The work scope also includes access ramps, play areas, upgrades in the gymnasiums and auditoriums, and administration suites. The building systems were upgraded as part of refurbishment including air conditioning systems and elevators. The exterior is a mix of bricks and glass and serves 315 students.

Cecil parker elementary school © www.robertaeashington.com
Cecil parker elementary school © www.robertaeashington.com
Cecil parker elementary school © www.robertaeashington.com

11. City Homes, New York

 Renovation of 18 abandoned Harlem townhouses was taken up to create designed and affordable, 2-3, and 4 BHK residences by a non-profit agency. The scope of work also expanded to create an identity around the blocks in which the city homes are located and these family homes followed a duplex or triplex format. The deteriorated parts of the building were rebuilt by using materials like precast concrete elements, wooden doors, and metal cornices. After such an initiative, other similar construction activities falling under adaptive reuse started taking place in the neighborhood.

 

12. Infill Housing Project, New York

This city-funded project was taken up by the firm which allowed them to identify, focus, and improve upon many vacant lands after the demolition of the city and re-envision the space. The housing project was designed as 28 two or four family-type accommodation units with the interiors focused on contemporary style and the building following all norms such as maintaining adjacent building height, staircases, and designated spaces for the tenants and owners.

Infill Housing Project © robertawashington.com
Infill Housing Project © robertawashington.com
Infill Housing Project © robertawashington.com

13. Interfaith Medical Speciality Centre, New York

 The medical center is a specialty clinic with three smaller clinics as a part of a new hospital in Brooklyn. The medical center is a three-storey building that includes an urgent care center, radiology department, a wing for general medicine, pediatrics, and other specialty laboratories. The total area utilized for the whole setup is approximately 27,000 sq ft and the special clinics cover around 4000 sq ft area. The smaller clinics are in the vicinity of the main clinic.

Interfaith medical specialty center © robertawashington.com
Interfaith medical specialty center © robertawashington.com
Interfaith medical specialty center © robertawashington.com

14. Brooklyn Long Term Care Facility, New York

The interior design and furniture selection of this facility was given to the firm with a brief focus to create an interior space that emits warmth and a welcoming atmosphere. The warm and comfortable environment was reflected by the use of various combinations of patterns and emphasis on earthy, ethnic, and minimal textures. This was reflected across by using them indoors, windows, and wall panels and fabrics.

Brooklyn Long term care facility © robertawashington.com
Brooklyn Long term care facility © robertawashington.com
Brooklyn Long term care facility © robertawashington.com

15. Grimes Elementary, New York

The location of the Grimes elementary is in an urban location and is located next to a high school. The brief was to create different spaces for learning according to various age groups and provide them with a distinctive learning environment. This challenge was met by firstly isolating the two school premises by zoning the school in a way that enhances site circulation. The result was planning different blocks to function separately and by only being connected at a common point- a loading dock. A basement plus three-floor building block sufficiently caters to around 450 students incorporating areas such as classrooms, cafeteria, gym, multimedia center, science labs, auditorium, and underground parking.

Grimes elementary © robertawashington.com
Grimes elementary © robertawashington.com
Grimes elementary © robertawashington.com

 

 

 

 

 

Author

Chitvan Mathur is an Architect and Designer who is passionate about how spaces tell a story through powerful conceptualisations. A strong believer in the ability of architecture, she combines research with critical thinking and aims for quality by bringing her aesthetic and clean eye to all parts of her work.

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Rethinking The Future Awards 2022