Last month, Partner Kimberly Murphy took part in Love Overflowing – a virtual exhibition showcasing LGBTQ supportive housing projects in NYC. Organized by Build Out Alliance (BOA) and moderated by recent ESKW/A hire Edward May, the event had architects share the stories of six  buildings recently completed and in-construction that will house formerly homeless LGBTQ youth and LGBTQ seniors with support services on site.

ESKW/A joined Magnusson Architects and Planners and Marvel Architects to present projects including East Village renovations and major new construction in Fort Greene. We were honored that our work for Homeward NYC (formerly West End Residences) at True Colors Residence and True Colors Bronx was featured. Since its opening in 2011, True Colors Residence in Harlem has become a home and source of community and security for hundreds of current and former residents. As independent permanent housing for LGBTQ youth, it was the first of its kind in NYC. We are inspired to see continued interest in supportive housing for the LGBTQ community.

A member of BOA, Ed told us a little about how the exhibition and roundtable came together: “While sipping on a Mezcal margarita along 9th Avenue one night, newly hired at ESKW, I was thinking about the body of work that the firm has completed, and both True Colors buildings came to mind,” he said. “It stood out to me that we’ve done two projects with clear identities that have LGBTQ clients in mind, and I also thought that they were handsome buildings. That train of thought led me to think about the projects done for the Ali Forney Center, where a dear friend of my mine works as a development director. At that point, I knew there was an existence and need for this type of housing, and I saw an opportunity to curate content for BOA.”

After compiling images and information from each firm and collaborating with the individual presenters, Ed formatted slides and organized rehearsals with the help of other BOA members. By mid-January, the presentation was mostly finished, with two full dress rehearsals complete!

“This was an incredible learning experience of current supportive housing strategies, and since I am also a huge nerd when it comes to LGBTQ history, I was also able to integrate early housing efforts led by the forbearers of LGBTQ rights,” Ed added.

The showcase put forward the research and different architectural strategies that root from the specific needs of LGBTQ youth. A sense of community is encouraged through different movements such as prioritizing outdoor and community room spaces, as well as choreographing the entrance of the building to feel welcoming and safe. Quite often, LGBTQ youth are victims of discrimination from their own families, and in many cases these youth are forced out of their homes and into dangerous and unstable situations. In response, crafting an architecture of safety, stability, and community are major goals of these specific projects.

Partner Kimberly Murphy jumped at the opportunity to join the discussion. “Supportive housing, especially in support of the LGBTQ community, is such a special project type relatively unique to NYC, so who wouldn’t want to join peers, share experiences, and promote these important projects? I am certainly inspired by the work of the other panelists.

“Our long-held position is that permanent, secure, dignified housing is the answer for people experiencing homelessness and with mental health struggles. The work we do as architects is part of who we are, and being part of the ongoing conversation is our responsibility,” she said about the event. “Using our skills to partner with organizations doing the great work of serving communities is a dream job.”

ESKW/Architects is currently in the early design phase for an LGBTQ seniors housing project in Hell’s Kitchen, so stay tuned as that project develops.

The full presentation is available here: