Spacesmith Fosters Trauma Informed Design for a Family Center in New York
Experiencing significant life challenges can be traumatizing; design shouldn’t be. And yet, too many institutions of human service—foster care centers, medical offices, social service providers—are housed in unpleasant environments with stressful spatial arrangements and bleak interiors that may, unintentionally, increase the trauma of those they mean to heal.
Spacesmith’s plan for the SCO Family of Services Genovese Family Life Center was to do the opposite. The firm employed “trauma informed design” for the 30,000-square-foot center in Jamaica Queens, New York. “Adverse childhood experiences, such as time in foster care, carry an elevated risk of toxic stress physiology, which leads to chronic illness, depression, and other life-threatening circumstances,” says Spacesmith principal Ámbar Margarida. “With a clear spatial layout, thoughtful furniture choices, visual interest, light and color, and biophilic design, the center promotes a sense of calm, safety, and well-being.”
The firm completed a gut renovation of the five-floor building, with levels for family visiting, foster care, residential and youth justice, and medical services. Interiors promote spatial availability with clear sightlines, reduced barriers, and hospitality-inflected furnishings, while pastel color palettes and engaging, biophilic wallcoverings seek to inspire engagement and relaxation. “The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel uneasy, sad, or helpless, “ says Margarida. They hope a new design can reverse that.
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