Queens Emergency Medical Services 50 Station is the district headquarters for the entire Borough of Queens. The goal of the project was to highlight the important role that the Fire Department of New York plays in protecting the lives of everyday New Yorkers. The strongly sited building—with a dynamic cantilever at one end and an open apparatus floor on the other—serves as a reminder of the constant energy it takes for the Emergency Medical Service men and women of the Fire Department of New York to continuously respond to crises.
The building is located on the Queens Hospital Campus in Jamaica, Queens. The site is along a sloping street with a jarring scale conflict between a large hospital building to its rear and tiny bungalows across the street.
Three main qualities of the site were the impetus for the building:
1. Capitalizing on the energy of the sloping street to create a dynamic identity
2. Resolving the conflicting scale issues of the neighborhood to create a unified street
3. Protecting an existing underground utility tunnel that traversed the site
The first quality was the strongly sloping site that inspired a continuously inclined form. The building rises up and out of the sidewalk following the line of the street and culminating in a dynamic cantilever that overhangs the entry to the parking lot. The diagonal form anticipates movement, embodying the programmatic reality of immediate action required of EMS workers.
The second, the scale conflict between the large hospital and the tiny houses, is also resolved through the continuously inclined form. The sloping double story volume echoes the section of the tiny houses across the street. At the same time, the length of the building works with the large scale of the adjacent hospital, while simultaneously forming a “dam” along the street that protects the houses.
The third and perhaps most challenging consideration, was an existing, underground utility tunnel which courses across the entire site. It is the invisible presence of the tunnel that led to the structural approach. A long span truss/bridge uses two abutments to direct foundation loads away from the tunnel and lift the second floor creating the structure of the continuously rising form and the dramatic cantilever.
The internal functioning of the Station is comprised of four programs:
1. Apparatus Floor
2. Station Office
3. Station Functions
4. District Offices
The most important activity for the Station is the apparatus floor. Located at one end of the site, in the tallest portion of the building, it is a grand room scaled to the street. Three garage doors, usually open, link the station to the community.
Adjacent is the Station Office, command central for the entire building. It is open to the public lobby which is a three dimensional joint located at an overlap between the two diagonal bars that visually links all four programs.
The Station’s lockers and showers line the first floor. The red concrete block in the corridor plays with the identity of the ambulances while creating durability for the heavily trafficked spaces.
The District Offices are located within the powerful diagonal trusses of the second floor giving them a special identity within the station.
The spaces are joined through shifted atriums, stairs, and large windows that overlook the apparatus floor. This continuity of spaces both outside and inside the building creates a connection between different users within the building.
The Station is a hub of activity with people coming and going 24-7. The apparatus floor (garage) is always open and engaging, connecting the station to the community. The building serves as a reminder of the important role the Fire Department of New York EMS plays in maintaining a vigilant presence to combat the fear of small and large scale emergencies within the city.
Materials reinforce this goal in three ways:
1. The powerful form is strengthened through material pattern
2. The apparatus floor (garage) uses bold color to mark its location
3. The materials for the building reinforce the visual identity of EMS
The continuously sloping form that moves dynamically across the site expresses the restless energy of the facility. Strong slashes pattern both the glass and the concrete, reinforcing the diagonal lines of the form and creating a tactile surface along the sidewalk.
The apparatus floor, located at the hinge in the folded form, is the joint between interior and exterior. The signature FDNY-red overhead garage doors are the focal point of the street façade and are the primary point of interface between the public and the facility.
The red, white, and metallic silver of the EMS identity are woven throughout the facility. Red block, red lights, and red lettering play against the white concrete and white frit of the taut glass and crisp metal work almost pulling the visual presence of the ambulances themselves into the building.
This facility has been embraced by the FDNY EMS users it serves and has been exemplary for the Design Excellence Program established to elevate the quality of new civic design in the city of NY.
Kathryn Dean and her New York City-based office, Dean/Wolf Architects, has a reputation for providing unique transformational designs, turning architectural constraints into powerful generators of form. The office uses architectural design to reinforce the identities of individuals and institutions -- supporting a psychologically rich dialogue between buildings, their users, and the environments they inhabit. Dean/Wolf expresses these visceral collective desires through dynamic memorable spaces that construct the understandings and realms that we share. Through collaborations with clients, agencies, consultants, and builders, Dean/Wolf has completed residential and institutional projects at a variety of scales. The projects are distinguished by a highly thought-provoking manipulation of light and space, precisely activated with sensual materials such as concrete, steel, maple, and glass to dissolve boundaries of interior and exterior space.