Audubon Houses, Bethune Gardens + Marshall Plaza
Washington Heights, New York
NYCHA PACT is a program that frees funding to allow for comprehensive repairs and renovations of public housing developments, while preserving tenant rights and ensuring permanently affordability. In this project, NYCHA PACT ABM, JPLA provided complete landscape design renovations for the exterior spaces of three NYCHA housing developments in New York City’s Washington Heights Neighborhood, each with unique site features and needs. In collaboration with our client, Dantes Partners, NYCHA, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, and the consultant team, we are excited to be part of this endeavor that will elevate and enhance the design of the people’s living spaces spaces, cultivate healthy living, foster recreation, and build community.
The design for a new play-centered landscape is inspired by birds and nature after the residence’s namesake organization, the Audubon Society. Silhouettes of migrating bluebirds adorn the site’s perimeter fences and signature bird sculptures flank the entry gates. In the center of the playground, a large wood-beam structure has climbing bars and slides in playful pops of color. A designated play space for young children has a mesh hammock, interactive talking tubes and a wood playhouse with slide. A splash-play area with egg-shaped sculptures and in-ground jets gives off a dynamic display of water spray during summer months. Surrounding the play spaces, seating areas with wood benches and tables are sites for parties, homework sessions or a game of dominoes.
The design protects the existing mature canopy trees that provide ample shade and sites for perching. A rich palette of native plants enriches the landscape with textures and colors and support birds and insects throughout the seasons.
Inspired by Mary Mcleod Bethune’s legacy of social work and education, the design creates a park-like landscape that fosters community amongst the building’s retiree residents, their visiting grandchildren, and members of the local community center.
The design activates an expansive, under-utilized landscape while preserving its pastoral quality with an expansive canopy of mature trees. The organic forms of the plan provide a network of curvilinear paths throughout the property to access a range of amenities and to provide an active walking loop. Nestled within the landscape along the network of paths are dedicated spaces for fitness, children’s play, quiet contemplation and events. The core of the landscape is a central meeting space with amphitheater seating built into the existing hillside.
The plan was designed around prioritizing the protection of its many existing mature trees. The addition of a variety of low-maintenance native shrubs and groundcovers enriches the landscape with layers of textures and colors throughout the seasons. The design also improves security for residents by providing two key-fob entrance gates and clear lines of vision throughout the landscape.
Marshall Plaza’s landscape design draws inspiration from the its namesake, Justice Thurgood Marshall, and his appreciation for rhetoric and discourse. The design brings energy and life to transform the existing inactive cellar and street-level spaces and creates a strong connection between them. Organic shapes creates intimate spaces for conversation and contemplation with curvilinear benches and lush planting areas. A variety of seating options, designed for this pre-dominantly senior community, include sculptural cast stone seatwalls with wood bench toppers and fixed tables with chairs for outdoor parties, games and dining. A grand staircase is a significant addition designed to fulfill tenants desires to connect the lower-level amenity space to street-level. New gathering spaces at the building frontage provide comfortable vantage points from which to take in the life of the city street. Lush planting areas with native shrubs and trees provide colors and textures throughout the seasons and a visual unity to the landscape’s discrete spaces around the building.
CLIENT: Dante’s Partners
COLLABORATORS: New York City Housing Authority, Curtis + Ginsberg Architects, and AKRF (Engineering)