Independence Care System’s 16,000 sq. ft. Brooklyn office is one full floor of 25 Elm Place – a gut rehabilitation of the original Mays Department Store. This unique project involved re-thinking how office space can function to fit the specific needs of ICS, a non-profit organization committed to helping people with disabilities live independently. The project included extensive consideration of the particular access and functional requirements for people with a wide variety of disabilities, people who both would work in the space as well as visiting members.
ICS balances two primary users: an Open Office for full- and part-time care managers and a Free Program space to accommodate the physical and social support needs of their clients/members who periodically visit and use the space.
The Open Office side of the program is lined with meeting rooms and private offices to create a simple, rectangular space for the care managers. Organically shaped furniture contrasts with the rectangular space and provides meandering circulation making it easier for wheelchairs to navigate. Files and personal affects are secured in rolling file cabinets to allow field-based care managers the use of any open desk.
The Free Program side of ICS is irregularly shaped providing different spaces for different social programs simultaneously. A central gathering area can be used for social events: movie viewing, demonstration films, knitting club, game night and storytelling. A kitchen area is used for catering events and as a mock set-up to demonstrate ways that disabled persons can cook for themselves. An art program encourages personal expression through drawing, painting and sculpting. This space also provides the room for larger staff meetings from ICS’s other New York City offices.
The two spaces are loosely divided by shared-function rooms used for counseling, small meetings and staff leaders. To encourage visual and physical interaction between the care managers and people with disabilities, connections are made between the two major spaces. The translucent walls lining the connections are warped at wheelchair height contrasting the geometric regularity of the open office side against the flexible functions of the free program side. The walls introduce a glowing light into the heart of the program.
PROJECT TEAM: Timothy Bade, Jane Stageberg, Martin Cox