Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and Saratoga Associates have won a competition for a green affordable housing development project in Syracuse, New York called Freedom’s Gate, which will integrate low-income families with ex-convicts recently released from prison. The other firms in the design competition, which used a Curtis + Ginsberg prisoner reentry project called Castle Gardens, located in New York City, as an inspiration, were Solid Objectives-Idenburg Liu (SO-IL) together with Holmes-King-Kallquist +Associates, Architects, ISA Architecture/Research together with HealthXDesign, and SWBR Architects.
Courtesy Curtis + Ginsberg Architects and Saratoga Associates
The Curtis + Ginsberg and Saratoga Associates design for Freedom’s Gate, which includes a large commercial space, doesn’t look like typical low-income housing. It has a colorful patterned façade with staggered windows, sunbathed stairwells, decks and community gardens. By establishing a street-wall extending the length of a city block with large picture-sized windows and trees, the development also will enliven an otherwise bleak neighborhood dominated by “Tower in the Park” public housing projects, vacant lots, and a deli housed in a concrete bunker-like structure.
Freedom’s Gate addresses a burgeoning population whose housing needs have been almost completely neglected in public policy circles. “When they get out of prison, the reentry population is typically homeless,” said Marc Norman, director of Upstate, a division of Syracuse University’s School of Architecture that focuses on real estate. Upstate developed the design brief for the competition on behalf of the Syracuse-based Center for Community Alternatives and the Syracuse Housing Authority, and Norstar Development USA.
Courtesy SO-IL + HKK
What makes Freedom’s Gate a potential model for other prisoner-reentry developments is that it will provide different dwelling types to help former convicts move towards living on their own. The design calls for shelters on the ground floor for men and women ex-convicts recently released from prison and 51-family units on the upper floors of the development for families of prisoners as well as low-income families who need affordable housing.
According to Freedom Gate’s developers, one of the key reasons that the Ginsberg/Saratoga design was chosen is that it established a relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces, such as a laundry room that looks out on a playground, a dining facility with indoor and outdoor areas, and a network of community gardens and courts that serve as shared spaces. Another of the winning design’s attributes according to the development team is that it created a transition, “from public to semi-public to semi-private to private.”
The competition was funded by a grant from Enterprise Community Partners.