Sou Fujimoto Architects (SFA), in collaboration with The Collective, a London-based coliving developer, will be developing the former Slave Theater site at 1215 Fulton, in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The building, currently in permitting, is projected to open in 2022.
The 10-story, 240,000 square-foot project will be composed of three separate structures and will feature a mix of public cultural space and coliving apartment units. Its form takes inspiration from New York City’s local building typologies, iconic water tower tanks, and plentiful rooftop living spaces. This will be the Tokyo- and Paris-based office’s first foray into red brick, which was derived from the surrounding buildings of the historic neighborhood.
Ammr Vandal, US Architecture Director at The Collective, said the decision to work with Sou Fujimoto was an immediate and definitive choice, because of the “empathy and creativity that runs across the studio’s body of work.” Fujimoto’s office approached the formal design of this project through a process of subtractive carvings, establishing key amenity spaces as void spaces within an otherwise generic block of housing. “A certain curiosity is developed towards the building, where you can see something which stands out but and feel intrigued and invited into what is going on inside,” said the architects in a design statement.
A large lobby space designed to engage the public at street level will help establish a mid-block connection between Halsey and Fulton Streets, and taps into a stepped interior courtyard—the building’s largest common space, which will be open to the public. Glossy white interiors work to create a homogeneous space which the architects say will “receive the varied individual identities of each future member and local visitor.”
The project is rallying behind the cultural prominence of its immediate site—the former Slave Theater—which served as a social gathering point, an icon of the civil rights movement, and a symbol of black pride in Brooklyn from 1984 to 1998.
“Designing for New York presents such a significant moment for our practice,” said Sou Fujimoto in a design statement. “I am honored, in particular, to be working in a culturally rich neighborhood like Bed-Stuy, and to reimagine this historic site. I hope our design will sustain and serve the incredible culture of this community.” Along these lines, Vandal said the project team had a deep appreciation and respect for planning the redevelopment of such a significant site: “We have been actively working with key neighborhood stakeholders, including the Community Board, local organizations and groups, and plan to continue throughout development process to ensure we are honoring The Slave Theater’s legacy in response to local input.”
In addition to providing free housing and studio space for 6-to-10 participants per year, 1215 Fulton’s development includes various theatrical and social gathering spaces intended to be activated with local artists, community-focused business incubation, and an accelerator program for young entrepreneurs.
It remains to be seen how this heightened sensitivity to context, with white-washed interiors and blend of public, cultural, and private residential programming will pan out here. And likely, we won’t know until the paint dries and the novelty of coliving typology normalizes. It is a tall order to attempt to recover the memory of such a public site, but if anyone can pull it off, it might just be this team.
PROJECT DETAILS AND CREDITS
Total Square Footage: 240,000
Number of Units: 440
Number of Floors: 10
Gross Development Value: $260 million
Design Architect: Sou Fujimoto Architects
Architect of Record: Ismael Leyva Architects
Development Partner: Tower Holdings Group