Richard Meier has returned to his roots with the opening of his latest project in the heart of downtown Newark, New Jersey. Government officials gathered Thursday to cut the ribbon on the first phase of a mixed-use development called Teachers Village. The 90,000 square foot structure is now home to two charter schools, with retail planned for the ground floor.
The sprawling development—part of of revitalization program to revive downtown—will consist of retail space, a daycare center, three charter schools, and 200 apartment units for teachers. The Newark-born architect was tapped to design five of the eight buildings in the complex with KSS Architects in charge of the remaining three.
“Project Teachers Village was conceived and started in 2008,” said Vivian Lee, project manager at Richard Meier & Partners. “The original context of this area was mostly parking lots and a lot of abandoned buildings, and Ron [Beit] really had a vision to revitalize this part of downtown Newark and provide housing as well as retail to really liven up this part of the city.”
AN took a tour of the four-story, brick-and-metal-clad building, which is a departure from Meier’s signature glass and stark-white buildings. “From early on the project we understood that this is not the typical project that our office does,” said Remy Bertin, project architect. “We really wanted to integrate it into the fabric of Newark—not just in plan, not just in making things in line, but also through the material. Newark is the brick city. It is a very vernacular material for the city traditionally.”
The firm worked closely with a mason to create a sawtooth brick design on the facade. While Meier & Partners experimented with a new palette of materials, they still made light a priority in the overall design scheme. “In keeping with Richard Meier’s design philosophy, we wanted to bring in a lot of natural light, and obviously it promotes learning,” said Lee.
Bertin said that zoning, specifically the height limits for buildings in the area, presented initial challenges to the design. “When we were designing the school, the big issue that we were dealing with was all the programs, all the schools that were in the space,” said Bertin. “We really wanted to create a sense of inter-connectivity with public spaces within the building even though we had so much to pack into a 60 foot package that limited us.”