Kirshenfeld has also been at the forefront of a new wave of thinking about social housing. Throughout the twentieth century, the focus of social housing was often on the building itself at the exclusion of amenities which create community. Yet community is nourished by amenities which give rise to public health, dignity and respect. Kirscheneld has deftly shown how such considerations can be drawn into the designer’s purview, resulting in better architecture— and a better quality of life for residents.
Kirschenfeld’s method focuses on identifying under-utilized portions of civic land that were passed over for private development and bringing world-class design to the city’s neediest residents. The resulting projects combine housing with social services that help residents transcend chronic homelessness. By pushing the expectations of what supportive housing can be, Kirschenfeld’s projects elevate the neighborhoods where they are situated.
Kirschenfeld is also the founder of the Institute for Public Architecture, a non-profit which promotes socially responsible architecture and provides a support community for its practitioners. Kirschenfeld was the recipient of the inaugural 2014 HH Richardson Award for Public Architecture given by the NY State Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Beyond housing, Kirschenfeld has drawn international distinction for the re-purposing of a cargo vessel into the Floating Pool—a temporary pool complex located in the East River in the Bronx, a neighborhood lacking in public pool facilities. Historically, temporary pools built on barges moored in the river were common in New York, but the practice died out in the 1930’s. The Floating Pool hosted over 50,000 visitors during its eight-week season and won the 2007 international Award of Excellence from the Waterfront Center. The Pool was also honored as the runner-up in the prestigious 2007 Cooper-Hewitt Museum People’s Choice Design Award, and has received a 2008 Masterwork Award, among other awards.
Jonathan joined us for a conversation with Brenda Rosen of Breaking Ground on February 2nd, 2017 where we tackled the right to housing in the neoliberal era.