It takes great respect for a place where an 82-year-old architect can change his behavior. For Richard Meier, an unusual assignment in his native Newark, New Jersey, was just the right thing. The Teachers Village, the first phase of a city-wide renovation for which Meier was developed, was completed this week and consists of three mixed-use buildings, the facades of which offer a fine interplay between the characteristic pure white aesthetics of the architect and represent a major deviation here. Brick.
The company used iron speckled bricks that shimmer in the changing daylight.
While the project was not tied to local history in many ways – three basic housing structures in a city that hadn’t seen basic housing for decades – a slang-mix in downtown Newark was for the company and the project developers of vital importance, RBH Group.
“We wanted it to be contextual. We wanted it to fit into the urban fabric, ”says Vivian Lee, Richard Meier’s longstanding architect and partner in charge of the project, referring to Newark’s extensive collection of turn-of-the-century structures. “We basically had to learn how to build a brick building.”
The Teachers Village is home to three charter schools and 206 housing units for the teachers serving the local community.
But Richard Meier, who uses brick, is not the only novelty of the project. The Teachers Village, which houses a total of three charter schools, 206 residential units, and a number of retail spaces on the ground floor, offers a completely unknown reef of affordable workers housing. Teachers who work in local schools and in nearby communities have initial dibs for the rental apartments, which are offered at around 60 percent of the median income.
While measuring the success of such a monumental project takes time, some indicators show that the company is on the right track. As of this week, the occupancy rate of the residential units was around 97 percent, and numerous commercial tenants should follow. In addition, the project is set to receive LEED neighborhood development certification, an elusive name for community-wide projects that meet the stringent criteria for urban development and sustainable design.
But perhaps most importantly, how this project is a launch pad for Newark’s future renewal, both on upcoming Richard Meier projects and other development efforts.
As Meier himself said: “Anything we can do to help the whole city, and I think this project does it, we are proud of it.”