Saratoga Avenue Community Center
Project : Saratoga Avenue Community Center
Location : Brooklyn, New York
Client : New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
Firm : George Ranalli Architect
Associates: Silman Engineers; George Langer & Associates; Anne Valentino; Falk Associates Inc.; Hillman Di Bernardo & Associates; Paul Warchol Photography
George Ranalli Architect’s Saratoga Avenue Community Center, completed in 2010, for client-agency NYCHA included the remodeling 1,500 square feet of existing ground-floor space, for used as a media room at Saratoga Village, a 16-story apartment tower, and architecture for a new 3,500-square-foot building for all-purpose community use, including a commercial kitchen, director’s office, bathroom, storage, and other amenities.
The Saratoga Community Center presented the community with an alternative to the contemporary sentiment that public architecture built by a public agency is bland, stark, and alienating to occupants. The Saratoga Avenue Community Center project transforms a solitary space on a residential housing campus to a place of elegance and distinction. The orientation and design of the new building, and the redesign of the the existing high rise tower’s ground floor, as well as the surrounding landscape architecture, serves to brighten the housing super-block environs.
At the eastern end of the site, a newly designed hallway connects the existing apartment tower to a new community center, framed by a sheltering street wall. The new community center’s smaller volume used for the director’s office, balances the composition to the west. Design elements also shape two inviting outdoor spaces – one bordering Hancock Street, and the other extending to the Community Center’s main entrance. In metrical progression, from either from the street or the adjoining apartment building, visitors pass through the Community Center entryway into a soaring, 23-foot-high main space, beautifully finished in an expanse of hardwood floor, buff-white materials for the walls, and large mahogany-framed clerestory windows, which compel the view upward. An ubiquitous adjustment of scale and ornamentation frames the atmosphere for any activity, or special occasion occurring within.
An exterior material palate of speckled roman brick over a limestone base connects comfortably to the tan brick of the existing housing block, while contrastive materials, transparencies, and densities invigorate the site. Innovative construction strategies, such as the use of precast concrete sections surrounding recessed, mahogany-framed window and doorways, cost no more than featureless brick and stainless steel. Similarly, the buff-white plaster interior walls are lined with super strong, easily replaced, decorative panels that provide protection from daily wear and tear while providing a play of reflections that echoes the rhythm of the daylight hours with variations of light, and at night responds to the delicate interior-lighting design that fills the room with sparkle.
Saratoga Community Center represents a contemporary architectural application of traditional allusions to communal space. The architecture might look expensive, but its budget is economical. The total cost for the project, including site preparation, landscape architecture, and construction met customary expenditures for a public agency.
Read More : NY Times, The City, Dispatches, by Jake Moony
Project Monograph : Saratoga (Single Building) by George Ranalli
Picture Gallery: Telegraph, UK, picture gallery, Saratoga Avenue Community Center