50 years ago Covenant House New York was chartered as a not-for-profit organization to provide shelter for homeless youth across New York City. Unfortunately, today there is still a pressing need for these services as nearly 10% of the New York City school age population identify as being without a home. Another recent trend in youth homelessness is the significant increase in the number who identify within the LGBTQ+ community. They are struggling to find acceptance, love, and support to reach their highest potential. For decades, Covenant House New York operated from a campus of three buildings in the shadow of the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the busiest in the world. The former library, juvenile detention center and hotel buildings provided a lot of space, but the quality of the space was lacking. None of it had been designed for the population, support activities and services the organization provides. With the Hudson Yards development transforming the far west side of Manhattan, the land value of the Covenant House campus increased significantly. Over several years many land use, planning and space use strategies were explored with public agencies and private developers until the final plan was determined to be finically viable, meeting the needs of all. Covenant House would receive a purpose- built, trauma informed building, a donation to their endowment to help maintain the building for future generations and some office space in the adjacent development. The developer, The Gotham Organization would receive a large portion of the site that includes the full block long frontage of 10th Avenue, to create a mixed income residential building. This kind of for-profit/not-for-profit co-development is a successful collaboration that can be applied to many situations where there are struggling religious, educational, and service organizations who possess large and under-developed sites. These community anchors may have the land, but they do not have the financial resources to improve and or maintain their facilities. Bringing new residents and retail activities to 10th Avenue and providing shelter and services to Homeless New York City youth is a win-win-win for Covenant House New York, the Gotham Organization and New York City. Stemming from the mission of Covenant House, its residents and the services provided, the design of the building was conceived to meet a series of dualities – Inviting and Strong, Comfortable and Durable, Standing out and Fitting in, Efficient and Commodious, Visible and Private. The building sits in the new and evolving community of Hudson Yards. To contrast with the glass towers rising around the site, the building is hand crafted and humanly scaled. Using warm natural materials, brick, stone, copper and wood, we have provided a secure, yet welcoming experience. At only 12 stories, it does not compete with its neighboring towers for the skyline but focuses its energy on enhancing the pedestrian experience. The large openings on the four lower floors announce that this is a unique building. Solidity and transparency are balanced to provide the connections to the city for the more public spaces and protection from the city for the more private functions. The residents can feel both safe from and engaged with the City. The main lobby welcomes all users into the building, providing a singular identity and a central security point. A Welcome Center, a Wellness Center and the CovCafé are all located on the first floor. The Café opens directly to a landscaped courtyard space that is a private gathering space for relaxation or engagement. Each suite of spaces, and the large gathering spaces are designed for both specific functionality and flexibility, change is the constant that must be carefully considered. At the top of a gracious stair dubbed the Stoop, Pride Hall reveals itself and extends out to a large, landscaped terrace. The Hall is light filled throughout the day with large windows facing both North and South and a variety of seating types and groupings. An Art room and Hope room are provided for youth expression and contemplation. A gymnasium and small workout room occupies the lowest level of the building along with a music room where the youth can explore instruments, and digital music production. Inspired by a beloved mural that was created on the side of the former building, the vibrant color palette weaves throughout the floors, wayfinding, donor signs, textiles, and furniture pieces. The tones are warm and cheerful and sometimes unexpected. Throughout the building there are individual bathroom and shower facilities to accommodate privacy and respect for the gender identity of all who come to Covenant House. The benefits of devoting a large amount of space to these facilities far outweighs the loss of opportunity for alternate space use. This commitment of space embodies the core values of Covenant House, it is a place where all youth will feel at home. The devoted administrators, staff and counselors are transforming the lives of hundreds of people each year, teaching new skills to help them find a path to community and society re-engagement.
FXCollaborative is a New York City-based architecture firm founded in 1978. The firm leverages broad expertise in architecture, interiors, and planning to enrich our world with responsible, intelligent, and beautiful design. The firm’s holistic approach integrates client aspirations, an urban sensibility, and a celebration of the craft of building. FXCollaborative’s work ranges from the scale of individual buildings and interiors—office towers, multi-family residences, cultural facilities, workplace, K-12 and higher-education institutions—to the city as a whole, addressing infrastructure and transportation.