LUBRANO CIAVARRA ARCHITECTS is currently working with Taino Towers ownership, management, and tenants to improve the physical and programmatic capacities of this historic mixed-use Section 8 housing project. Located in East Harlem and completed with federal funding provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in 1979, the Taino Towers complex is about to undergo $60 million worth of renovations throughout this full city block property bound by Second and Third Avenues and 122nd and 123rd Streets. The site consists of four 35-story residential towers, sitting on a four-story commercial base that includes underutilized outdoor plazas, commercial and cultural facilities, and a parking garage. Starting in 2000, LUBRANO CIAVARRA established a working relationship with members of the Taino community while engaged by a tenant, the Harlem Day Charter School, for design services at their expanding school. In 2010, LUBRANO CIAVARRA was retained by Taino as the Design Architect for the complex. Projects extending over the next several years will involve multiple scopes of public and private work including the interior renovation of all residential units; the re-fenestration of the towers; solar panel installation; courtyard playground design; and the rehabilitation of two cultural spaces – a 200-seat Theater and a Health Club.
The largest scope of work LCA is undertaking at Taino is the interior renovation of all 656 subsidized rental apartment units. The Towers, originally designed by architects Silverman & Cika as part of joint venture between HUD and the East Harlem Pilot Block group, were a unique affordable housing concept with their floor to ceiling glass and amazing views. In addition to all new interior finishes, LCA recognized the inefficiency of the existing living spaces in the units, and proposed minor, yet critical, plan modifications at each of the twelve apartment types to open up dark internal kitchens. These new layouts, together with the installation of sustainable bamboo cabinetry, recycled pressed paper countertops, and eco-friendly porcelain tile, will give each apartment a contemporary aesthetic in a new healthy living environment.
The firm is also collaborating with LCA alumna and recent RPI Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology PhD Graduate Bess Krietemeyer, to introduce some of her emerging environmental façade system technologies at the Taino Towers exterior enclosure. Two of the four residential towers are slated to have original single-pane steel casement windows replaced with highly insulated glass units. Through technical analysis, LCA and Ms. Krietemeyer determined the most effective glass types and specialized coatings needed to reduce electric lighting, heating, and cooling costs. A series of façade studies informed by safety and operation concerns led to a solution that preserves the buildings’ original design intent while addressing the needs of tenants and issues of maintenance. LUBRANO CIAVARRA also brought in the nationally recognized engineering firm WJE for specialized testing and investigation of the facades to inform the window replacement project.
For three of the four Tower rooftops, LCA worked with Rob Ashmore at Aeon Solar to design a solar energy system of 207 photovoltaic panels. The panels are calculated to generate 70k kw/h annually, and will be targeted to cover the power consumption of either the Health Club or the Theater.
Located at the Northeast corner of the property, the beloved Red Carpet Theater is poised to undergo a major upgrade. LCA is designing a ground-up new building addition that will provide an independent Entrance and street level Lobby as well as a dedicated elevator to enable access to the Theater. The interior package will include a seating upgrade, a newly configured backstage and all new lighting. With the new construction commanding a street presence along Second Avenue, the Theater will strengthen its role as an arts center in East Harlem and become a destination for performers and patrons alike.
Below the raked seating of the Red Carpet Theater rests an abandoned double-height space with an indoor swimming pool. LUBRANO CIAVARRA presented programming options for this forgotton space and is now working to transform it into a highly anticipated membership Health Club. In lieu of a pool there will be a Weight-Lifting Pit, and the pool deck will be reconfigured for Fitness Classrooms. To maximize square footage, a mezzanine level has been designed to house aerobic machines such as stationary bicycles and stair-masters. The original Locker Rooms and Showers will be refurbished with sustainable finishes and fixtures to further enhance this community amenity.
At the heart of the complex is a 10,000sf unused exterior courtyard space which will be redesigned as a place for both free and organized play. A driving concept for LUBRANO CIAVARRA during preliminary studies was how to use both texture and surface to create a strong visual connection between the tenants in the towers high above, and their view of the ground below. Recycled rubber mulch will be used to define various programmatic uses including a running track and playing field. Raised garden beds could be used by tenants and charter school students alike to grow produce, and will be fed by water collected in a rain water basin from the roof of a new gardening equipment storage shed.