The restored welcoming exterior

Chelsea District Health Center

Inspired by its unique park location, the newly transformed Chelsea District Health Center is now a superb patient environment.

Under the Mayor’s Design Excellence Initiative, SYA is responsible for the gut renovation of this Art-Deco era public community health center. The $23M project successfully accommodates new, airy, state-of-the-art healthcare clinics into a landmark quality building with small floor plates, low floor-to-floor heights and, obsolete infrastructure. In order to create a more welcoming facility, the interiors are planned to maximize views and natural light, making the most of the building’s unique location within a public park. Curved wood ceilings and natural finish floors combine with hi-tech finishes to evoke a state-of-the-art medical pavilion in a park. Park-facing walls are clad in a tile pattern inspired by the park’s sycamore trees. A new glass-enclosed stair creates expansive views and activates the building. The scope includes exterior renovations, a new accessible entry and all new infrastructure. A LEED Gold rating is anticipated.

An historic health facility in a public park
An historic health facility in a public park
Main entry: Natural materials combined with sleek surfaces
Main entry: Natural materials combined with sleek surfaces
New stair with park view
New stair with park view
Public spaces with views to the park include "Green Walls", clad in a tile pattern based on the park's sycamore trees
Public spaces with views to the park include "Green Walls", clad in a tile pattern based on the park's sycamore trees
Typical exam room
Typical exam room
Existing building
Existing building
An innovative perforated Corian screen hides the roof equipment
An innovative perforated Corian screen hides the roof equipment

History

Chelsea District Health Center is part of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s initiative to transform their historic community health center buildings, into state-of-the-art, welcoming health clinics. The community health centers were conceived under Mayor LaGuardia in 1929 when New York City established Health Districts with the goal to improve the health and lifestyles of New Yorkers in all five boroughs. Each Health Center was constructed with New Deal funding and provided free medical and dental services, health education, disease control, administrative services and health inspections.

New York City's New Deal Era District Health Centers
New York City's New Deal Era District Health Centers
Making health care and health education available to all New Yorkers
Making health care and health education available to all New Yorkers
Chelsea District Health Center, c.1939
Chelsea District Health Center, c.1939

Feasibility Study

A detailed feasibility study included multiple options for renovation and addition to the existing historic building, each compared against both current and projected future space needs for the various clinics. The study also included phasing strategies as the City required the building to remain in operation during any construction work. After reviewing the feasibility study alternatives the City elected to gut renovate the building without an expansion.

Modernizing an Historic Health Center

Accommodating Larger Clinics: the limited footprint and the layout of the core of the existing building were tailored to accommodate multiple small stand-alone clinics on a single floor. However the City’s contemporary clinics are much larger and more complex than 1930’s era clinics - in some cases meaning the modern clinics would need to be divided into several separate areas, or even split over more than one floor.

In the case of the STD Clinic, SYA worked closely with the City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to assist them in modifying the program’s organization and patient flow to work within the space available. The resulting solution allows the clinic to function efficiently in 3 separate spaces divided over 2 floors.

Accommodating Modern Infrastructure: building heating, ventilation, plumbing and electrical systems in the 1930’s were much less complex than what is expected and required for a contemporary state-of-the-art clinic. The existing building, with low floor-to-floor heights, and limited interior space presented challenges in accommodating the extensive ductwork and large mechanical equipment needed. SYA devised creative solutions to integrate this modern infrastructure into the Art Deco building while enhancing exterior appearance and interior space.

Curved Wood Ceilings in Public, Patient Waiting and Circulation Areas

Curved Ceiling Section
Curved Ceiling Section

Development of Perforated Roof Screen

Perforated Corian Screen Mock-ups
Perforated Corian Screen Mock-ups
Roof Screen Detail
Roof Screen Detail