Each year, through the generosity of the Bass Fellow program, a distinguished developer is invited to Yale to conduct a studio in development. The Bass Fellow brings leading private and public-sector clients to the School of Architecture to give students insight into the “real-world” development process and the architect’s role on a development team.

This year’s Bass Fellow is Jonathan Rose, the President of Jonathan Rose Companies, one of the United States’ leading developers, based in New York City. Since founding his companies in 1989, Mr. Rose has been responsible for $1.5 billion of work, much of it in close collaboration with not-for-profits, towns and cities. His mission is to repair the fabric of cities, towns and communities while preserving the land around them. To this end, his companies plan and develop diverse, green, transit-accessible buildings and neighborhoods enriched with social, cultural and educational networks. This work’s result is a model that is equitable and supports the cultural, educational, and economic health of the regions in which we live and work.

This studio brings together Mr. Rose with Sara Caples and Everardo Jefferson, Principals of Caples Jefferson Architects in New York.

The studio

The task for this studio will be to design a new building across from the Apollo Theatre on 125th Street in Harlem. The new building will provide housing for retired jazz musicians and space for cultural and creative workspace uses, including 3 or 4 non-profit media groups, a film screening room, a public meeting room, a restaurant/café and a visitors desk for the entire 125th Street Harlem cultural district.

The studio questions issues of cultural representation versus the mutability of the site’s ethnic anchorings. It requires the designer to consider each space from the user’s perspective. And it demands high standards of sustainable design, headed towards net zero, that support a more satisfying occupant experience, with maximal use of controlled daylight and natural ventilation.

Because innovation often comes from digging into areas that others perform perfunctorily, each project will be required to demonstrate deeper consideration in the following areas:

-Programming, going beyond defining spatial sizes and arrangements.
-Building construction, involving all major building systems and detailed sustainable envelope construction.
-Cultural issues, their possible impact on the physical construction, and upon the visitors’ perception of the resulting fabric.
-Buildings as urban markers of history and culture, as creators of unique place within the city.
A major object of the studio is to model the developer-architect relationship, including how we actually meet, present, and exchange ideas. Mr. Rose is the actual great rare client that every architect competes to work with. This is an opportunity to see what it’s like to interact, be pushed, and to deepen your work in response to that stimulus.

Architects are often in a position of inwardness-outwardness, where they attempt to understand the project both from the perspective of the developer and users while simultaneously considering it from a larger context. A constant of this studio is to explore the added value that a disciplined designer can bring both to the developer’s financial and building needs and to the project’s larger societal mission. The final result is to be a specific architectural object, a fully developed artifact that, within the limits of the development process, satisfies the highest standards of architecture.

The site

The site is at the heart of Harlem, across the street from the world famous Apollo Theatre.

Mr. Rose’s firm is the development manager on behalf of UMEZ, the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone, http://www.umez.org UMEZ is investing in this project to strengthen the presence of Harlem-based organizations that both enrich the cultural life of the community and advance its economic development.

Mr. Rose’s challenge, and that of his architects, is to provide UMEZ with both an economic return and a social/cultural return on its investment.

For Mr. Rose and his client, UMEZ, it is essential to approach this project from Harlem’s larger context, physically and symbolically.

Both the site and the program are indicative of Harlem’s dynamically evolving layers of cultural identity.

-Harlem’s history as the premiere African-American neighborhood of America
-Overlaid on its prior history as a German immigrant neighborhood and its current evolution into an explosively gentrifying district of Manhattan
-Firelight Media, producer of films that concentrate on pivotal moments of American history
-Futuro Media Group, a teller of Latino stories overlooked by the mainstream

The program is split between residential and cultural uses.

The residential uses require a disciplined use of structural geometry and planning for maximal efficiency of construction. The living units involve considerations of livability within relatively confined areas, maximization of fresh air and daylight, access to outdoor uses, and special considerations with regard to acoustics that allow each resident to practice music.

The cultural uses are more complex to figure out, given the mix of program. Some programmatic pieces, for example, may compete for lobby space and 125th Street frontage, so designers will have to make tough choices.

Residential Program (124th Street)

-34 units of housing
-124th St. Residential Lobby
-Communal Arts Space–for resident use
-Laundry facility–for resident use
-Other support spaces–(storage, trash/recycling, etc.) as required to support the above
-All of the above approximately 40,000 gross SF
Note that the above list is a result of programming and zoning test-fit studies. For instance, the 34 units of housing is a particular mix (8 Studios, 25 1-BRs, and 1 2-BR)–which is one scenario of what will fit within the as-of-right FAR, height, and bulk requirements and these buildings are inefficient, so the net to gross will be high.

Cultural/Commercial Program (125th Street)

-125th St. Lobby–approximately 1,000 NSF
-Visitors kiosk managed by NYC&Co.
-Space to showcase works produced by building’s users
-Film Screening Room – approximately 2,000 NSF
-Approximately 125 seats
-Multi-Purpose Meeting Room–approximately 1,000 NSF
-Flexibility to host a variety of meetings and functions
-Restaurant–approximately 7,500 NSF
-Shares the 125th Street frontage
-Serving both the building’s users and the general public.
-Futuro tenant space – approximately 3,000 NSF
-Office and creative work space, including media production facilities, meeting space, and administrative space
-Futuro staff as well as members of the public may use these spaces (e.g. guests participating in Futuro’s programming).
-Firelight tenant space – approximately 4,500 NSF
-Office and creative work space, including media production facilities, meeting space, and administrative space
-Firelight staff as well as members of the public may use these spaces (e.g. members of the public using Firelight’s film editing facilities).
-Spec office space – approximately 6,000 NSF
-Office and creative work space for media and arts organizations
-Other support spaces—(storage, maintenance spaces, etc.)—as required to support the above
-All of the above approximately 27,000 net SF / 35,000 gross SF

Process of Working

Because this is a developer-driven project, it requires intensive and rapid development of schemes with Monday desk crits and weekly Thursday pinups and models. The studio will begin with 2 weeks of small team studies of the project’s design constraints including residential design, sustainable techniques of enclosure and construction, methods of delivering direct and indirect daylight, contemporary media production studio requirements, changing modalities of film and small performance presentation, the site’s history and surrounding cultural and physical building history, and 3 dimensional documentation of the site’s zoning constraints.

The following 2 weeks will be devoted to early scheme development, with presentation to the developer and to user groups at the end of this period. This is the first juncture where your scheme must demonstrate that it takes into consideration inputs of public officials, zoning and budget inputs from developers team, requirements of other disciplines such as structural, MEP, theatrical, and acoustical.

This first test of why some design assumptions may be valid while others require rethinking, will be immediately followed by travel to Paris and Marseille to visit buildings that deal with similar challenges in a slightly different cultural context.

Upon return, the following month will be devoted to detailed development of the rethought schemes, culminating in the midterm review. This second strong test of the project will inform the next 3 weeks of final reworking and development of the schemes, while the final 2 weeks following the fall recess will concentrate on robust graphic and 3 dimensional communication of the projects. The resulting artifact, presented with detailed renderings and models, is to be a work of architecture, a highly specific building.


Inwardness trip. After an initial series of studies, on 24 September, the studio will travel to the site for a one-day visit to better understand the context and to meet with representatives of the public agency that owns the site and with the cultural institutions that will participate in the site.

Outwardness trip. Then during travel week, we will visit Paris and Marseille to visit examples of housing and of cultural venues that attempt to address some of the same issues that drive the Mart 125 project, but seen through the lens of two differently culturally diverse cities.

All Semesters

Fall 2017
Gullah/Geechee Institute
Scott Ruff
Fall 2016
The Aesthetics of Accelerationism
Michael Young