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  1. ArchDaily
  2. Projects
  3. Mixed Use Architecture
  4. United States
  5. David Adjaye Associates
  6. 2014
  7. David Adjaye's Sugar Hill Development: A New Typology for Affordable Housing

David Adjaye's Sugar Hill Development: A New Typology for Affordable Housing

  • 01:00 - 11 June, 2014
David Adjaye's Sugar Hill Development: A New Typology for Affordable Housing
David Adjaye's Sugar Hill Development: A New Typology for Affordable Housing, Courtesy of Adjaye Associates
Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

Adjaye Associates' latest development has opened in the historic neighborhood of Harlem, New York: a complex that aims to combat poverty and revitalize the community by bringing together affordable housing (including housing for homeless New Yorkers), a Preschool, and a 17,000 square foot cultural institution -  the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling. The “school in a museum” is designed to engage students and foster a new generation of Sugar Hill artists and innovators.

“The Sugar Hill Development is a new typology for affordable housing, with its mixed program of museum space, community facilities, offices and apartments,” David Adjaye noted at yesterday's opening press conference, “My hope is that the building—perched high on Coogan’s Bluff—will offer a symbol of civic pride and be a valued new resource for the neighborhood.”

The architect's description of the project, after the break.

Courtesy of Adjaye Associates
Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

 From the Architect. Sugar Hill is a new mixed-use development in Manhattan’s historic Sugar Hill district of Harlem that will feature affordable housing, early education programs and a new cultural institution. Initiated by non-profit developer of supportive housing, Broadway Housing Communities (BHC), and generated by a tight budget as well as the exacting parameters of the site, the concept challenges the traditional typology. Unusually, the scheme incorporates a public program, with a children’s museum and early childhood center, which resonate with Adjaye Associates’ commitment to a wider urban and cultural responsibility. The 13-storey, 124- apartment affordable housing complex will be located on W. 155th Street at St. Nicholas Avenue. The practice worked closely with the client and local community to ensure the design is tied to its history, practical and aesthetic requirements, through a series of workshops and planning meetings. The brief required a modern design complementary to its surrounding environment of Gothic revival row-houses.

Floor Plan L2
Floor Plan L2

The response is a textured slab building, which crowns a 76 foot base that steps back at the ninth floor to create a ten foot terrace and cantilever on opposite sides. The cladding is achieved with rose embossed graphite tinted pre-cast panels, which create an ornamental effect, paying tribute to the rich culture and history of Harlem. Abstractly referencing the intricate masonry ornament and the articulation of the row-house bays of the neighboring buildings, the cladding also resonates with the fact that the site falls within the “heritage rose” district. The roses on the building façade are set to varying sizes and depths to enhance the play of light across the surface. The tinted precast concrete material was refined through a series of studies, samples and tests, and is designed to sparkle with sunlight allowing the building to shimmer throughout the day. The graphite color also serves as a contrast to the luminous glass facade that begins at the public entry plaza and wraps around the entire building creating a glowing beacon for the gateway to the Sugar Hill district.

Courtesy of Adjaye Associates
Courtesy of Adjaye Associates

The fenestration accentuates the vine-like qualities of the rose pattern while providing an abundance of natural light and views from the apartments, which frame Central Park, One World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan, the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and the new Yankee Stadium. Terraces are placed on the second, third, ninth, and roof levels. At the base of the building is a Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling. The 18,036 square foot area has been designed with interactive exhibition and performance spaces and an artist-in-residence studio. The second floor will house a 12,196 square foot, light filled early childhood education center and there are offices for BHC on the ninth floor. The residences, education center and museum will be accessed from the landscaped public plaza on St. Nicholas Avenue.

West Elevation
West Elevation
  • Architects

  • Location

    Saint Nicholas Avenue & West 155th Street, New York, NY 10032, USA
  • Design Consultant

    Adjaye Associates
  • Architect of Record

    SLCE Architects LLP
  • Area

    191000.0 ft2
  • Project Year

Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address. Cite: "David Adjaye's Sugar Hill Development: A New Typology for Affordable Housing" 11 Jun 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed . <>
Read comments


Jay123 · December 12, 2014

Speaking as one person who attended the open-house and viewed many of the apartment- looks can be very deceiving! The interior of the building & apartments are incredible; so much to the fact you would think you were staying in a hotel (with much larger living space).

Jeff · November 21, 2014

How about just painting it a different [more uplifting] color?

Naausicaa · October 09, 2014

Unbelievably awful.

bp294 · October 07, 2014

This is the first Adjaye project I've liked at all -- Adjaye's penchant for dark silhouettes has never seemed so daring. My doubts are about the stingy fenestration (window size, number and placement) and awkward apartment layouts. Surrounded by any number of graciously proportioned and detailed pre-war apt bldgs, these failings are glaring. Still, purely as sculpture, the bldg is stunning.

Pablo Lopez Ampudia · September 09, 2014

I love the rendering, drawings and renderings for this building but the physical presence of this building is petrifying.

Churchill Banks · June 13, 2014

Is this the progressive direction Harlem is supposed to be going in......?

leonor · June 12, 2014

It would have looked so much better in a brighter color. The dark gray concrete makes it look like a prison, which is the opposite of what you want a low-income housing project to look like. There's got to be a way to design low-income housing that is not so depressing.

The_Dude · June 12, 2014

Waow! Not sure what it is, certainly is monumental and scary in proportions!
Looks a little out of place whatever the story behind its shape, and the intricate detailing of the facades seem bit weak as I'm not sure if one will really be able to perceive this from the street level?!
Money well spent? Not sure...

NYarchitect14 · June 11, 2014

This is very disappointing. It actually looks like a large prison and looks as bad or worse than the 1960's public housing projects of old. There is not much hope of this thing being a source of pride for the community. Hopefully the inside is better.

Paul Harding, FAIA · June 11, 2014

The poor quality of the architectural photography renders the building almost incomprehensible.

Axio · June 11, 2014

Is anyone elses first impression of the exterior of a jail? or an old 70s era bunker style housing project? Granted, one that's been dressed up with a unique, laser cut facade (which is only visible at a fairly close range), but bunkerish and heavy regardless because of massing and material choice?

Chris Clark · June 11, 2014

Looks more like a jail house than apartments... the tiny window openings on the narrow ends of the building aren't helping the situation.

humanist · June 11, 2014

very oppressive looking. depressing and severe.


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