The City of New Haven is dedicated to building a new facility in the downtown area to house a Family Justice Center for victims of domestic violence. The urgency of the issue of family violence has inspired New Haven’s city government to make it a recognizable and accessible destination as an integral part of the city.
A temporary facility for this organization at Temple Street has already been opened in late August of 2019. The concept of the Family Justice Center is a relatively new institution that has been developed in the US over the last few decades, the first founded in San Diego in 1985. The institution now has many addresses in cities across America and has spread to many countries throughout the world.
Turner’s personal introduction to the concept of the Family Justice Center was through a fellow hockey parent who he happened to be sitting next to during a practice at a rink. A former police captain in New Haven’s police force, her current mission was implementing the institution in New Haven. She briefly outlined why it was so important, describing a typical victim of family violence seeking help and how difficult that was. Not only was it hard to know who to contact for help, or where to go, but often a victim needed to see multiple experts ranging from a lawyer, a detective, a therapist, a psychologist, a medical doctor and others. The victim was often in a position of confusion of where to go for help, and making multiple trips to different destinations, all of which took time, and could cause much stress involving absenting themselves from their jobs, and often the added difficulty of providing care for young children. This has led to many victims giving up trying to find help. She made it very clear that one central place (a hub) that housed in one place all of these venues of assistance, was urgently important and needed. She described it as ‘one stop shopping’.
As an introduction to the project, students will tour the facilities in New Haven, and meet with program directors, chief city planner (and YSOA alum) Aicha Woods, and other agency representatives including survivors of domestic violence who have participated in similar programs. This dialogue will be maintained throughout the development of the projects. Additional advisors will include local experts in the fields of social work, child psychology, emotional and physical trauma and recovery, and law.
Group research and precedent studies during the initial weeks will take shape around several themes:
- Civic vs. Discrete: How does the building balance the visible presence of the institution with the anonymity and discretion required for incoming clients?
- The Internal Street: How do multiple autonomous agencies coexist around a semi-public interior space? What are the specific requirements for interaction and exchange with a doctor, a lawyer, a counselor and a police officer?
- Effect of Trauma: How do the psychological effects of trauma effect perception in an institutional building? What is the direct experience of space and material relative to notions of ‘comfort’, ‘warmth’, and ‘community’? How can you articulate a therapeutic environment?
- Children’s Perspective: How do children perceive space, material, light and texture? How are they separated from and then reconnected to parents and other adults? What are the experiential differences?
As the studio progresses, focus will be on the individual student’s approach to the design problem, with an emphasis on an iterative process of model making and hand drawing.
The program of the 20,000 sf facility will include a public lobby, semi-private check-in, child daycare, counseling, medical exam rooms, legal offices, criminal investigators offices, group therapy rooms, job training and lecture rooms, directors’ and staff offices, as well as family lounges, kitchens, and exercise rooms.
Other related facilities will be investigated and may become additional elements in the program. This could include sleeping areas or studio apartments for victims who cannot safely return home, long term child care, an exterior courtyard or recreation space, a café which links to job training and rehabilitation programs, and additional space for autonomous groups such as legal aid/legal rights organizations.
Several vacant lots in downtown New Haven will be considered as potential sites. Relationship to public transit, parking and existing social services will be considered as well as connections to larger formal, informal, physical and non-physical social and urban networks. Following an initial tour of downtown New Haven and preliminary shared site analyses, students will select sites and begin massing studies prior to travel week.
We will travel to Amsterdam where there is a well-developed support system for victims of domestic violence. Students will meet with representatives of Blijf Groep, operators of domestic violence support centers, and tour a recently completed facility in Almere as well as various crisis centers in Amsterdam. Itinerary will also include visits to buildings of the Amsterdam School, works by Aldo van Eyck, and day trips to Rotterdam, Utrecht and Delft.