Frederic Schwartz Architects


New York, New York

Competition Winner


The Kalahari is a multi-use residential building in Harlem, New York. In addition to 250 residential co-op units there is an after school squash program, a cinema and performance art facility, retail space, a daycare center, public parking, and outdoor recreation space including roof terraces.

Inspired by designs of the Ndebele tribal peoples, public spaces are decorated with colors and textures meant to embody the strong graphics used in the traditional painting and decorating of exterior facades of houses in the South African home of the Ndebele people. Adinkra patterns and symbols, found in printed and woven cloth created by the Akan people of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, are also found throughout the project. These African motifs are evident in the brick patterning of the vertical towers and the subtle relief of the panels behind. African medallions and symbols on the second floor are also visible from the street.

The form of the building is created by two residential bars that slide past each other but remind connected by a glass link. This pulling apart creates a generous open courtyard inside the site. The transparency of the connector allows views into the courtyard and out to the city beyond. The sculptural activity room tower engages the corridor and provides a visual counterpoint to the glass connector.

The design and construction of the Kalahari embodies a whole systems approach to developing a sustainable and energy efficient building. The roofs are high albedo green grid roofs at the terraced setbacks and over the retail area; passive systems—particularly the building envelope—are as efficient as possible; heating and cooling systems are carefully calibrated to the building's needs. The building will use a geothermal heat pump—a renewable and non-polluting source of energy that also eliminates the need for unattractive air conditioner penetrations in the building's facade.












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