Dattner Architects is proud to announce that Alafia and Charles F. Murphy Early Childhood Development Center have won design awards from the Society of American Registered Architects – New York Council (SARA NY)! Held at the TWA Hotel on October 26, the SARA NY Design Awards gala celebrated winners from 2020 and 2021.
Honored with a Design Award of Merit in the Urban Design category, Alafia is part of New York State’s Vital Brooklyn initiative—an ongoing community development program for underserved neighborhoods in Central Brooklyn. The plan invests $1.4 Billion for community-based healthcare, affordable housing, and open-space and other programming. Alafia will be the largest development within the Vital Brooklyn initiative.
Situated on a 28-acre site at the edge of New York City, Alafia is an ambitious master plan created through a public-private partnership that includes the state and the city; non-profit, community, and for-profit developers; and local designers and planners. The master plan transforms a decommissioned state psychiatric hospital into a wellness-oriented resilient urban development designed to address the chronic social, economic, and health disparities in a historically underserved area.
Creating a community for approximately 7,500 people, the new 2,400-unit development is centered around a series of programmed open spaces that break down the scale, foster a sense of ownership and belonging, and encourage healthy activities and neighborly interaction. The housing includes affordable and supportive units, providing homes for formerly homeless, individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and seniors. An ambitious urban agriculture program will employ local residents and includes nearly 2-acres of outdoor growing space, a robust indoor farming operation, and facilities for “Meals on Wheels” food prep, distribution, and open-air markets.
Selected for a Design Award of Merit in the Educational category, the Charles F. Murphy Early Childhood Development Center is an iconic symbol of Coney Island’s post-Hurricane Sandy revitalization. The new preschool provides sought-after education for local children and has become a vital neighborhood resource.
The school serves 85 children, fostering social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Their Montessori philosophy that the most important learning occurs outside of the classroom became a vital design driver. Instructional spaces are organized around play roof terraces, blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. The landscaping of these play roofs is inspired by Coney Island’s sand dunes and native grasses—in essence, a scaled down version of the barrier beach ecology, incorporating nature into children’s everyday learning. Light-filled classrooms with expansive windows strengthen their relationship to the play roofs; clustered into “neighborhoods,” a sense of safety and intimacy is reinforced throughout.
As part of its community-focused mission, the ground floor is designed for shared use. A daylit, double-height multipurpose space is used as a gym by children during the day and for community events afterhours. The expansive lobby serves as a pre-function space, showcasing artwork by children as well as local artists.