Category Archives: Public Architecture

Peabody Project Progressing

A view of the Central Gallery from the new addition to historic Yale Peabody Museum. (credit: Centerbrook Architects)

Our extensive Yale Peabody Museum of Natural history renewal project has recently received approval from both the New Haven Board of Alders and the City Planning Commission. As part of the municipal approval process, a number of new renderings were made public for the first time.

Among these renderings are two images of the Central Gallery, the first interior views to be released. The Central Gallery is the centerpiece of the project’s new construction, a four-story infill addition between the Peabody Museum and neighboring Environmental Science Center.

Also included in this image update are six new exterior views featuring landscape designs by James Corner Field Operations, whose portfolio includes award-winning projects like the High Line in Manhattan and Brooklyn’s Domino Park.

The multi-year project is currently targeted to commence construction in March 2020. More information can be found in this detailed update from the Yale Daily News.

Home for the Holidays

The proud new home
The proud new home
The homeowners, from left: Maria, Nataly, Eulalio, and Bruno with shovel.
The homeowners, from left: Maria, Nataly, Eulalio, and Bruno with shovel.

Being home for the holidays this year meant something special for one family in Middletown, Connecticut. Eulalio and Maria, along with their two children Bruno, 6, and Nataly, 4, moved into their new house on December 6 and celebrated Christmas there.

The house, a three-bedroom New England farmhouse design with a wrap-around porch, was built by Middlesex Habitat for Humanity of Connecticut (HFH) over the past six months with the help of many local donors and volunteers. The family contributed countless hours of “sweat equity” as well. Three Centerbrook employees were among the construction volunteers: Danielle McDonough, Dillon Wilson, and I.

An existing house on the property was deemed beyond repair, so HFH reached out to Architecture for Humanity, New Haven (AFH) for help. The challenge was to design a new Energy Star Version 3 home to meet Habitat’s accessibility standards and to incorporate a driveway that was required by the city on an already narrow wedged-shaped site.

Once they had guided the project through Planning and Zoning, AFH passed the baton to Centerbrook: Dan Batt and I produced the permit drawings with additional help from Dan Morrissey Engineers. Then Centerbrook construction volunteers joined with AFH folks in a Saturday building day in November. This was an opportunity that not enough architects get: that is, to not only build a house that they designed, but to work alongside the family who will make it their home.

Motley crew of volunteers, from left: Patrick McKenna, Dillon Wilson, Tim Ariosto (AFH), John Sepples (AFH), and Danielle McDonough.
Motley crew of volunteers, from left: Patrick McKenna, Dillon Wilson, Tim Ariosto (AFH), John Sepples (AFH), and Danielle McDonough.

[Editor’s note: Patrick is cofounder and coordinator of Architecture for Humanity, New Haven and co-chair of the Middlesex Habitat for Humanity Building Committee.]

Making Design Accessible

Storefront Office, Riverdesign Dayton

To mangle an old saw, the stakeholders are NOT always right.  But they do have opinions and ideas, oftentimes quite insightful ones.  At our peril do we architects overlook, or lord over our clients, and building inhabitants as well, in the design effort.  When said stakeholders include citizens wielding the franchise, as is the case with some complex municipal projects, engaging the “others” is not optional.

Once upon a time, in an attempt to distinguish ourselves from better-qualified firms competing for a civic development in Ohio, we managed to invent a new use for television.  The project was to redesign the environs of the Great Miami River where it flows through Dayton, Ohio.  The date was 1976, and an earlier attempt to create a downtown riverfront plaza had been rejected by the voters.

Continue reading Making Design Accessible

The Gift of Good Design

Green Street Arts Center, Middletown, Connecticut

Nothing says the Holidays like the gift of elevated cholesterol, unless it is giving people something they really need.

People are always in need of good design:  whether it is for a home that uses materials and energy efficiently, a school building that promotes learning and community, or a public space that unites and delights a neighborhood.  Unfortunately, not everyone has access to good design, and as a result they may be left to inhabit buildings or spaces that affect them negatively.  Buildings built without the input of designers or architects often fail to adequately shelter the body or enlighten the soul.

The challenge for me and others is how to widen access to good design to those who need it, not just to those who can afford it.  There are many organizations working toward this end, such as Public Architecture and Architecture for Humanity, as well as colleges offering courses that teach about social responsibility and design, like Rural Studio and the Yale Building Project.  The majority of architects, however, do not work for non-profit organizations, but many still want to share their skills with individuals or groups that are not paying clients. Continue reading The Gift of Good Design