The Brotherhood SisterSol Community Center

Name of the organization: Urban architectural initiatives

Project title: The Brotherhood SisterSol Community Center

Project location: North Harlem, Manhattan

Project description:
This new building of the Brotherhood SisterSol, a community organization founded in 1995, acts as a beacon and gathering place for its Northern Harlem – Hamilton Heights neighborhood. Having outgrown the brownstone that had been their headquarters for decades, BroSis asked Urban Architectural Initiatives to design a new home for them on the same site. A 17,000 square foot 5-story building with basement and occupied roof, the geometry of this new community center creates upward directed visual movement, broadening its impact. The overlapping sections of the front facade telescope outward as they rise. This playful dynamism is reflected in the interior layouts, designed to accommodate a vast array of spaces within tightly programmed floor plates. Artifacts of ancient brownstone are woven into the new center, repeatedly reminding students of their history and providing exciting spaces for envisioning the future. Color combinations are consistent for public spaces but vary for program spaces so each space feels distinct and unique. Every opportunity is taken to increase the amount of natural light entering the building, including screened windows in the side yard facing the adjacent Green Thumb Garden.

Impact on the community:
The mission of the SisterSol Fraternity is to provide “comprehensive, holistic and long-term support” for children aged 8-22. Their role as a provider of summer camps and extracurricular activities is a starting point – BroSis seeks to provide so much more, fostering a sense of curiosity, togetherness and exploration in the children they serve as well as the pride and commitment to their community. BroSis students run a weekly farmer’s market to bring healthier food options to their neighborhood and the organization sponsors a wide range of cultural and community-building activities for children and their families. The new center provides a home base that facilitates all of these initiatives, allowing BroSis to grow beyond what was possible in its previous space. New amenities include a dance/movement studio, full-service cafeteria, half-court basketball court, art, music and multimedia studios, offices, library and event spaces as well as informal meeting spaces designed for youth gatherings. Within their own neighborhood, this facility provides children with spaces of quality and distinction, expanding their vision of what is possible and what they can achieve.

Description of the organization:
Urban Architectural Initiatives (UAI) is an architecture and planning firm established in 1996 with extensive experience in residential and community facility projects. Our primary focus has been to serve non-profit community organizations that provide affordable housing and social services to diverse underserved populations. We engage our clients in the complete design process and have comprehensive experience working with regulatory and funding agencies who support our clients’ work and accompany projects from construction to close.

Members of the team:

Summit / Racanelli; LMW Engineering Group; EMTG engineers; Krypton Engineering; Landscape Architecture by Liz Farrell; Raymond/Raymond Assoc; MaGrann Assoc; Gilbane, Inc.; Chris Cooper Photographer

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Jill E. Washington