Sugar Hill is a new mixed-use development in Manhattan’s historic Sugar Hill district of Harlem that will feature affordable housing, early education programs and a new cultural institution. Initiated by non-profit developer of supportive housing, Broadway Housing Communities (BHC), and generated by a tight budget as well as the exacting parameters of the site, the concept challenges the traditional typology. Unusually, the scheme incorporates a public program, with a children’s museum and early childhood center, which resonate with Adjaye Associates’ commitment to a wider urban and cultural responsibility. The 13-storey, 124- apartment affordable housing complex will be located on W. 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue. The practice worked closely with the client and local community to ensure the design is tied to its history, practical and aesthetic requirements, through a series of workshops and planning meetings. The brief required a modern design complementary to its surrounding environment of Gothic revival row-houses.
The response is a textured slab building, which crowns a 76 foot base that steps back at the ninth floor to create a ten foot terrace and cantilever on opposite sides. The cladding is achieved with rose embossed graphite tinted pre-cast panels, which create an ornamental effect, paying tribute to the rich culture and history of Harlem. Abstractly referencing the intricate masonry ornament and the articulation of the row-house bays of the neighboring buildings, the cladding also resonates with the fact that the site falls within the “heritage rose” district. The roses on the building façade are set to varying sizes and depths to enhance the play of light across the surface. The tinted precast concrete material was refined through a series of studies, samples and tests, and is designed to sparkle with sunlight allowing the building to shimmer throughout the day. The graphite color also serves as a contrast to the luminous glass facade that begins at the public entry plaza and wraps around the entire building creating a glowing beacon for the gateway to the Sugar Hill district.
The fenestration accentuates the vine-like qualities of the rose pattern while providing an abundance of natural light and views from the apartments, which frame Central Park, One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and the new Yankee Stadium. Terraces are placed on the second, third, ninth, and roof levels. At the base of the building is a Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling. The 18,036 square foot area has been designed with interactive exhibition and performance spaces and an artist-in-residence studio. The second floor will house a 12,196 square foot, light filled early childhood education center and there are offices for BHC on the ninth floor. The residences, education center and museum will be accessed from the landscaped public plaza on St. Nicholas Avenue.