SCO Family of Services – Genovese Family Life Center

  • area / size 26,282 sqft
  • Completed 2022
  • Spacesmith designed the Genovese Family Life Center for the SCO Family of Services as a welcoming and thoughtful space in New York City, New York.

    New York-based SCO Family of Services is one of the metro area’s largest human services providers, delivering vital services and support to children, families, adults, and the community for over 125 years. The agency provides access to a continuum of care that improves results for people facing significant life challenges, with a focus on education, housing, youth justice services, support for people with developmental disability, and community wellness.

    SCO’s Genovese Family Life Center is the hub of its programming in Queens. With a mixed staff of administrators, caseworkers, legal advisors, educators, and medical and mental health professionals, SCO does incredible work to keep the families and social fabric of New York strong.

    Many of the children and families served by SCO have been exposed to traumatic experiences that take a heavy emotional toll on them and the staff that works with them. Using the principles of trauma-informed design, Spacesmith renovated the new 30,000-square-foot Genovese Family Life Center to help both SCO staff and their clients navigate the difficult process of healing.

    Spacesmith’s work on this project began with turning an underutilized basement into the Center for Professional Development, a hub for continuing education and training for staff, as well as families interested in becoming foster parents. From a warren of makeshift, small rooms and dark corridors, the space became an efficient training center with flexible, interconnected rooms that host video conferences, classes, and events. The design counteracts the challenges of the basement level’s low ceilings and lack of daylight by bringing in natural elements – wood grain, textured stone, bright saturated colors, and tropical prints.

    The success of this initial project led to a building-wide renovation to craft the robust spaces SCO needs to support its work. At the building’s secure entrance, a comfortable, welcoming reception area leads to the foster care program’s medical clinic, which holds exam rooms, nurse practitioner and doctors’ offices, and a phlebotomy lab. It includes its own waiting area and ensuite bathroom to give clients the privacy they need to prepare for a doctor’s visit or complete supervised drug tests. The first floor also holds the foster care family visiting room, a large, inviting area with a rec room feel orbited by a series of semi-enclosed, colorful, kid-friendly spaces for birth parents to hold supervised visits with their children.

    The upper levels each have a cozy reception area and additional public- facing rooms for mental-health counseling, as well as administrative zones for staff – open work areas, private offices, focus/ phone rooms, and rooms designed specifically for supervisor and staff meetings.

    Throughout the building, the spatial layout, acoustic design, and material palette implement the principles of trauma informed design and focus on creating a soothing, safe space – aesthetically pleasing but not overwhelming and complicated. Cool colors that have a calming effect and inspiring/ uplifting fixtures and finishes are found throughout, as well as biophilic-themed wall prints that connect patrons with nature and provide a positive distraction (found to reduce stress and pain and improve mood). Studies show that curvilinear forms in interior settings elicit higher amounts of pleasant emotions (relaxed, peaceful, and calm) than rectilinear ones. At Genovese, all 90-degree corners throughout the space are curved with no sharp edges to risk injury. Weighted furniture with radiused edges help promote a safe environment; reception chairs with high backs offer a sense of comfort; dimmable lighting in mental health counseling rooms allow for personal preference adjustments to help lower stress levels; and full-height acoustic walls with sound absorbing fabric coverings provide audio privacy.

    The energy-efficient building, designed with the latest technology for heating, cooling, and ventilating systems, is an uplifting, carefully crafted space that signals to visitors that SCO is a place where they will be taken care of. The Genovese Family Life Center is a part of SCO’s continued positive impact on the lives of local children, families, and the community.

    Design: Spacesmith
    Lighting Design: Studio Atomic
    Contractor: DB Collaborative
    Furniture Dealer: Henricksen
    Photography: Eric Laignel