Under the Mayor’s Design Excellence Initiative, SYA was responsible for the LEED Gold gut renovation of this Art-Deco era public community health center. The $23M Article 28 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. The building’s location in a public park inspired the design concept: a sleek, modern health center that is also an airy park pavilion. The innovative design creates a soothing environment that is wedded to its site. 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 included exterior renovations and restoration including all new windows, new insulation of the exterior envelope, a new accessible entry and all new infrastructure.
“The architects’ handling of context was a winning formula in the [health care] category with Stephen Yablon Architect praised for their reuse of an existing building in the Chelsea District Health Center in New York. The Chelsea Health Center was also recognized for its green credentials as the design is projected to achieve LEED Gold status.”
Editors, World Architecture News
“These [health centers] are now very service-oriented, inviting facilities. The clinic staff has been very enthusiastic, and people feel comfortable coming to them. We’ve accomplished a complete turnaround.”
David Burney, FAIA, Former Commissioner NYC Department of Design and Construction
“Institutional-looking they’re not. Light-filled, welcoming, and design forward? Absolutely. The two ambulatory-care clinics designed by Stephen Yablon Architect for New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene turn a new leaf for the city’s healthcare facilities.”
Richard Staub, Oculus Magazine
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.
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
Development of Perforated Roof Screen