Studio Libeskind’s Atrium at Sumner opens its doors to seniors in Brooklyn

Studio Libeskind is known for its museums and monuments around the world. But more recently, the practice has pivoted toward social housing with the Rosenberg Residences opening in Long Island last year. “Today, there’s simply not enough housing for working class and low income people,” Libeskind told AN last March. “We need more great architects designing public housing, and we need to remove the stigma behind public housing.”

In lieu of this ethos, Studio Libeskind’s Atrium at Sumner debuted last week in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The opening marks the studio’s second affordable housing venture after Rosenberg Residences—both buildings were developed with Selfhelp, an affordable housing nonprofit.

Design on the $132 million project began in 2017, and construction started in summer 2021. Atrium at Sumner is located on NYCHA’s Sumner Houses campus on Brooklyn’s Marcus Garvey Boulevard. Urban Builders Collaborative and RiseBoro Community Partnership also collaborated on Atrium at Sumner.

playground outside Atrium at Sumner by Studio Libeskind
The 190-unit building is sited on Marcus Garvey Boulevard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. (©Hufton+Crow)

The new building provides 190 residential units for seniors within a tapering 11-story envelope. In total, 57 units will be for individuals who formerly experienced homelessness; and 132 homes are for people who earn below or the equivalent to 50 percent of Area Median Income (AMI). A bevy of studio and one-bedroom units are spread throughout the structure; each offers spacious layouts and large windows.

Impressively, Atrium at Sumner embodies what the design team calls an “Age-In-Place” philosophy. As user needs evolve over time, each unit can be adapted. Nineteen of the units can be fully adapted to accommodate tenants with physical disabilities, and four are uniquely made for visually or hearing-impaired residents. The landscape design delivers attractive walking paths, lighting, outdoor seating, and even bioswales that offer protection from extreme storms.

All residents will have access to a 24-hour attended lobby, free internet, on-site building management, a multi-purpose community room, a library/computer room, bicycle storage, an exercise room, emergency pull chords, and built-in air conditioners. Selfhelp’s Active Services for Aging Model (SHASAM), together with voluntary social work services and a Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE Center), will further empower residents.

interior courtyards
Atrium at Sumner offers a multitude of communal offerings and spaces. (©Hufton+Crow)

Formally, the 132,418-square-feet building is designed to stand out from its context: Atrium at Sumner has bold diagonal lines that rise from the ground with a cast-in-place concrete facade painted white. The main stair has stained oak handrails. The lobbies and hallways used polished concrete, and the interiors have luxury vinyl planks. The building’s rational, geometric envelope is interrupted by a pattern of open and solid elements, the architects said.

The ground plane offers 8,309 square feet of community facilities. Its residential courtyard offers a palatial, voluminous setting that draws the eye upward. It will be used for leisure, as well as community uses. The atrium was partially informed by Daniel Libeskind’s own childhood at Amalgamated Houses in the Bronx, and its communal spaces.

“Growing up in social housing in the Bronx gave me a unique perspective on the importance of community and high-quality, affordable housing,” Libeskind said in a statement. “I took this insight to task when designing the Atrium at Sumner Houses; I wanted to create a place that felt like home to the residents. I hope this project serves as a powerful example of howgood design can positively impact society, especially for those in need.”

long corridor with greenery
Corridors are brightly lit. (©Hufton+Crow)
kitchen with wood cabinetry
The units are all-electric (©Hufton+Crow)

Akin to Rosenberg Residences, Atrium at Sumner was equipped with state-of-the-art sustainable features. The building is designed to use up to 70 percent less energy consumption than the average New York apartment building thanks to its high-performance envelope and HVAC and ERV systems. Its appliances are all-electric. The stairwell windows and hallway organization is specifically designed to encourage residents to use stairs rather than elevators.

“It is a truly remarkable feeling to have come together to create nearly 200 new affordable housing units on NYCHA property for New Yorkers in need,” said NYCHA CEO Lisa Bova-Hiatt. “This new, beautiful building will be home to a thriving senior community and provide a new quality of life to formerly unhoused members of the community. We are deeply appreciative of our partners in this endeavor to provide the Atrium at Sumner’s residents with the comprehensive care and exceptional level of comfort that they deserve in their golden years.”

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