Richard Meier & Partners
By Jakob Harry Hybel
The first phase of an immensely ambitious project aiming to transform five blighted building blocks near the heart of Newark's business district into an education center with adjacent middle and low-income housing has just been completed. It also happens to be Newark native Richard Meier's first project in his hometown.
In its heyday, back in the 1950s, Newark, New
Jersey was the business and entertainment capital of the state. In
recent years however the district has fallen on hard times,
something Newark mayor Cory Booker has vowed to turn around. Since
his election in 2006, Booker has proposed radical plans to rebuild
the city's crime-ridden and poverty-stricken downtown area through
expansive urban renewal - a key element of which is the 14-block,
mixed-use development project, known as Teachers Village.
Revitalization Through Gentrification
When fully completed in 2015, Teachers Village - for which Richard Meier & Partners developed the master plan - will consist of eight low-rise buildings clustered around the intersection of William and Halsey Streets, in Newark's historic Four Corners district. The building complex will include three charter schools accommodating around 1,000 students and feature residential housing earmarked for local teachers and commercial space for Newark-based retail outlets. In addition, it will house a gymnasium and fitness center that will be open to the community, as well as a daycare center and a preschool.
As the name reveals, Teachers Village aims to
create a homogenous community of teachers who will ideally live in
the apartments, shop at the stores, teach at nearby schools and
meet with other teachers in the so designated plazas. This influx
of middle-income residents is thought to energize the now run-down
area, while creating a strong community revolving around the local
schools and its staff. According to developer Ron Beit, the driving
force behind the project, the vision has been to create "a
Layered with Texture
The buildings themselves are quite unimposing; the fabric and texture of the existing neighborhood is maintained while maintaining a distinct newness. As Meier explains, he wanted Teachers Village to stay "true to its historic roots, while at the same time ensuring that the community has a unique distinction and quality suggestive of a new chapter commencing."
The choice of materials clearly demonstrates
this duality. Certain parts of the facades are clad in Meier's
signature shiny white metal panels, while elsewhere, red bricks
dominate - something Meier has not used to clad facades in decades
- reflecting and emphasizing the materiality of the neighboring
buildings. The interior of the schools is kept
in a simple and subtle tone, the walls painted white and the
windows lined with back-painted white glass panels diffusing the
An Amicable Effort
In more than one way way, Richard Meier is returning to his roots with this project. Considering the art museums and luxury villas with which his name has become synonymous for the last couple of decades, his involvement in the Teachers Village project marks a return to the community complexes of his early career, such as the Westbeth Artists' Housing in the West Village and Twin Parks Northeast Housing in the Bronx.
Whether or not Meier's motivation for entering
into the project was indeed a renewed sense of civic
responsibility, is besides the point, really, as a distinct air of
wanting to give something back to the city - an attempt to restore
its former glory - is permeating the entire project. So, while
it remains to be seen whether or not the project will in fact
succeed in inspiring a tainted neighbourhood with a new sense of
purpose and identity, all parties involved seem to have their heart
in the right place - and this altruistic collectivity might just do
We were never just building buildings, we were always building a tool that would serve this city./ Ron Beit, Teachers Village lead developer
Facts about Teachers Village
Hyung Sok Moon
Three other buildings currently under construction will house 123 apartments pre-marketed to teachers and 30,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level. Completion date is spring 2014.
A sixth building, expected to be finished by 2015, will house an additional 90 apartments and 10,000 square feet of retail space.
Last updated: October 13, 2014