Rodney Leon Architects, an architectural practice founded by the one and only: Rodney Leon, a recognized American architect of a Haitian line of ancestry, known for his cultural, social, and religious contextual projects. Based in New York City, the practice was founded in 2009 serving behind the formation of significant buildings in the US and abroad, with various types: extending from museums, housings to sacred spaces. The alluring style of urban planning, with implementations of sustainable design solutions translating it into sleek contemporary architecture, outstands the outcome of the practice. 

Here are 15 archetypal projects by Rodney Leon Architects:   

1. The Ark of Return

Location: New York City, NY, USA
Year: 2015

This memorial space was an international competition established in 2013, with a themed phrase entry of:  “Acknowledge the Tragedy, Consider the Legacy, Lest We Forget”(The Ark of Return, 2020), won by Rodney Leon making it one of his proudest works. The exterior of the space emphasizes the concept of a ship acknowledging the millions of which slaves were transported in, the origami-like structure is executed with a different hollow triangle covered with white-marble concrete tiles cut in triangular shapes. Making the triangles a substantial element in the design that allows light into its hollowness, offering a contemporary approach, inviting the visitor in to discover the interior.

The interior of the design is set with 3 different abstract features, considering the 3 phrases of the theme: the first is having a 3D map of the continent of Africa engraved into the tiles of the interior as the “acknowledging the tragedy”, the second is the implementation of a human figure to scale, lying inside highlighting the phrase: “considering the legacy aspect”, and for the third feature is water in a reflective triangular manner “Lest we forget”, and that is by simply creating a spiritual, sacred space for all the visitors’ prayers.  

The Ark of Return - Sheet1
The Ark of Return ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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The Ark of Return ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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The Ark of Return ©www.rodneyleon.com/

2. African Burial Ground Memorial

Location:  New York City, NY, USA
Year: 2007

This culturally contextual project, where the monument has a historical background, makes it a landmark located between three other spaces with significance: a court, chamber, and an open memorial ring. The exterior of the monument illustrates different runes and artifacts that the Africans left behind in silver on the washed-out black tiles of around the 4 meters high structure. The design of the monument gives a feeling of narrowness, however, the height of it compensates for the space it has. 

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African Burial Ground Memorial ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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African Burial Ground Memorial ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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African Burial Ground Memorial ©www.rodneyleon.com/

3. Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts  (MOCADA)

Location:  Brooklyn, NY, USA
Year: 2012

This museum has a modernist approach to the design, highlighting a concept of shifting volumes through the height of the seven stories. Located in the corner of the street, without any party walls, the ground floor suggests an invitation to the public with its open floor plan and transparent glass walls with white concrete, between the brick exterior walls of the neighboring buildings. The design of the building and its height allows the occupier to have a clear view of Manhattan’s skyline and Brooklyn’s Downtown, from the roof terrace. 

Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts  (MOCADA) - Sheet1
MOCADA ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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MOCADA ©www.mocada.org/about/
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MOCADA ©www.mocada.org/about/

4. National Hip Hop Museum Master Plan

Location:  Bronx, NY, USA
Year: 2010

The National Hip Hop Museum occupying a 55,844sq meters space is set to be built in different phases on an existing abandoned site. The master plan suggests an interactive open space and a waterfront with sustainable design solutions; having the sculptural like design with wide-open spaces allowing areas to host different activities from workshops to performances. The roof, however, allows most of the light into the building emphasizing its spatial space. 

National Hip Hop Museum Master Plan - Sheet1
National Hip Hop Museum ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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National Hip Hop Museum ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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National Hip Hop Museum ©www.rodneyleon.com/

5. Belle Rive Residential Resort

Location: Jacmel, Haiti
Year: 2007

The private residential form of a resort is a reflection of maintaining Haiti’s form of French colonial architecture, where it features spacious buildings, pillars, and balconies. The resort inhabits 94 tower apartments and deluxe townhouses, in addition to a club and a 4-star hotel all of which is private with separate entrances, featuring terraces with a view. The residential development shows implementations of sustainable design approaches by minimizing the impacts on the existing tree plantations.

Belle Rive Residential Resort - Sheet1
Belle Rive ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Belle Rive ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Belle Rive ©www.rodneyleon.com/

6. River Avenue View Master Plan

Location:  Bronx, NY, USA
Year: 2012

This residential development plan initially is a triangular 3-level parking lot, located opposite The Yankee Stadium. The hotel and proposed conference center aim to have a commercial infrastructure with many windows allowing natural sunlight into the building, reflecting the architectural language of the site and its significant neighboring building.

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River Avenue ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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River Avenue ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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River Avenue ©www.rodneyleon.com/

7. Le Coeur Vert

Location:  Port au Prince, Haiti
Year: 2012

This housing development has three different prototypes that fill the utopian plan with reused circulation solutions. Each of these three community houses has the kitchen and restroom either attached, partially attached, and not attached. Built contextually, with raw materials from Haiti, these three types have four different styles with different built areas and bedroom numbers. 

This residential development plan initially is a triangular 3 level parking lot, located opposite The Yankee Stadium. The hotel and proposed conference center aim to have a commercial infrastructure with many windows allowing natural sunlight into the building, reflecting the architectural language of the site and its significant neighboring building.

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Le Coeur Vert ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Le Coeur Vert ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Le Coeur Vert ©www.rodneyleon.com/

8. Haiti Soft House

Location:  Port au Prince, Haiti
Year: 2010

This socially contextual project has features that allow it to be modified and altered. The residential units are built into cottages with lightweight steel for a structure, recycled precast concrete tiles that are constructed into a hexagon shape covered with six pieces of strong fabric acting like walls, and six pieces acting as a roof. The materials are raw and sustainable making it easy to adjust anytime, however, it lacks privacy, hence sunlight is needed to enter the unit, due to the roll-up full height unit window. 

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Haiti ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Haiti ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Haiti ©www.rodneyleon.com/

9. Cycle of Life Housing and Community Center

Location: Queens, NY, USA
Year: 2012

This project is an eight-level residential building, with a green roof and an open terrace as one of its main architectural features. It’s almost transparent double-height ground floor makes the building look more inviting and spacious, as well as to the light color tiles in the exteriors of the center. 

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Cycle of Life Housing and Community Center ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Cycle of Life Housing and Community Center ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Cycle of Life Housing and Community Center ©www.rodneyleon.com/

10. Islamic Cultural Center Inc.

Location:  Bronx, NY, USA
Year: 2014

This religious center has aspects of contemporary architecture, built on around 13,900 sqm featuring a five-story tower as a balcony and an outdoor green roof. The exterior of the building has a combination of arched and rectangular windows, mostly having the arched windows on the ground floor, leveled towards the pedestrian’s eye level with views into the large prayer hall. 

Islamic Cultural Center Inc.
Islamic Cultural Center ©www.rodneyleon.com/

11. French Evangelical Church

Location:  New York, NY, USA
Year: 2012

 This church is yet in its building process, set to have a neoclassical type of architecture. It is a three-storey proposal with two staircases leading to the second floor hugging the building’s main façade, made of red brick and arched windows in a sequence. The proposal has two different outdoor roof spaces that could be introduced with greenery and an outside landscape.

French Evangelical Church
French Evangelical Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/

12. Gospel Assembly Church

Location:  Bronx, NY, USA
Year: 2009

This church introduces gothic architecture to the modern, it has a mix of both elements in the building from large stained windows reflecting an abstract of colors and in contrast small square windows to pointed arches with some that are elongated giving it a sense of tower. This modern take of a church has the exterior covered with some brutalism shown in the façade.  

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Gospel Assembly Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Gospel Assembly Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Gospel Assembly Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/

13. Convent Ave Baptist Church

Location: New York, NY, USA
Year: 2012

 A modernist approach for a five-story church, having a double height for the ground floor, unlike any of the designs Leon produced, the façade has rectangle volumes coming in and out with a few colored windows surrounded by the gray tiles. The exterior of the building can not necessarily tell it is a church.

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Convent Ave Baptist Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/
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Convent Ave Baptist Church ©www.rodneyleon.com/

14. Master Planning and Memorialization for the Historic Mount Zion Cemetery

Location:  Georgetown, DC, USA
Year: Current, 2020

This African- American burial cemetery has  historical importance, that Leon shall manage to preserve and raise awareness through the design of the cemetery. The green space allows opportunities to establish an open memorial space. 

Master Planning and Memorialization for the Historic Mount Zion Cemetery - Sheet1
Convent Ave Baptist Church ©www.tclf.org/mount-zion-cemetery-female-union-band-cemetery
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Convent Ave Baptist Church ©www.tclf.org/mount-zion-cemetery-female-union-band-cemetery

15. The Enslaved African Memorial Committee

Location:  Teaneck, NJ, USA
Year: Current, 2020

This project is planned to have a greenery landscape to have an overall space of 373 sqm. Having the memorial structured as a spiral made of concrete, basing it on one of the Africans runes the ‘Sankofa bird’, representing the action of recalling history.

The Enslaved African Memorial Committee - Sheet1
The Enslaved African Memorial ©www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/teaneck/2020/02/13/teaneck-nj-black-history-month-event/4747542002/
The Enslaved African Memorial Committee - Sheet2
The Enslaved African Memorial ©www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/teaneck/2020/02/13/teaneck-nj-black-history-month-event/4747542002/
The Enslaved African Memorial Committee - Sheet3
The Enslaved African Memorial ©www.northjersey.com/story/news/bergen/teaneck/2020/02/13/teaneck-nj-black-history-month-event/4747542002/

Reference 

Rodneyleon.com. 2020. The Ark Of Return. [online] Available at: <https://www.rodneyleon.com/the-ark-of-return> [Accessed 15July 2020].

Author

An Architecture BA graduate that aims to leave her mark by offering her skill-set and knowledge of architecture to the rest of the world, BaheyaSarhan is strongly passionate about sustainable designs and model making. She is currently interning at an architectural practice based in Bahrain.

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