As the global hub for the collective efforts of hundreds of activists and entrepreneurs, the design for The Women’s Building has a crucial mandate to connect and to catalyze.

How do you transform a space of subjugation and control into one of collaboration and equity?  Start by choreographing the circulation of users, optimizing for interactions between people and programs. Next, we transform former dead-ends into connected loops. This new flow of space fosters relationships and trust among potentially disparate groups by maximizing transparency and touchpoints. Finally, we ensure plenty of shared spaces to meet and exchange ideas, flush with daylight, and connected by supportive, collective services,

This vision for a connected catalytic space was the primary driver for the massing and organization of the building. The U-shaped or winged building is often associated with typologies of control or forced privacy. Our first step was to ‘close the loop’ creating a continuously flowing space, encouraging connectivity and multiple paths to any single destination.

Tall buildings tend to stratify occupants and reinforce hierarchy. We propose large horizontal floor plates with shared common areas, destinations for community and discovery.

A terraced atrium brings light into the communal core with vertical inter-connectivity, turning the stack of workplace floors into a buzzing, thriving neighborhood. At the base of this neighborhood, resources serve body, mind, and spirit: from business services to health and wellness, from childcare to contemplation.

At ground level, the base of the building is transformed into a permeable, light-filled arcade. In this alcove, the visitor finds a cascading pocket park; this new urban amenity a sibling of the nearby High Line.

Ascending to the top of this park, a plaza at the base of our atrium hosts the exchanges between building occupants, social justice leaders, and the public. A theater, event spaces, restaurant, retail spaces, and galleries converge at the atrium plaza. It is from this elevated and integrated ground plane that the exuberance and power of change is broadcast to the larger community, our city, and the world.

The NoVo Foundation and G Group

Adaptive re-use of a former women’s prison into a cultural center focused on non-profits for women and girls.

130,000 sf


ARExA / Spacesmith / Davis Brody Bond

Darrick Borowski, Rik Ekstrom, Melissa Marsh, Sean Karns, Tyler O’Rielley
Jane Smith, Lisa Kim, Ambar Margarida, Vanessa Lacayo, Carmin Potter, Amy Jarvis,

Leslie E. Roberts and Assoc.

Once a heavy, defensive mass, the building’s street level now invites visitors in. A cascading pocket park welcomes change-makers and guests behind an open arcade.
The building’s catalytic core ignites at the atrium plaza level. Here public programs bring social justice leaders together over ideas, food, art and culture.
Large, open and light filled workspaces are connected through collaboration spaces around a central atrium. Small businesses, non-profits and NGOs share resources and exchange ideas.
On the roof, the story comes full circle. An incubator kitchen pairs rising chefs with former inmates, training them for a new career and a fresh start.


The Women’s Building

New York, NY

Intersection & Sidewalk Labs

New York, NY

WIX | San Francisco

San Francisco, CA

Taihua Jinmao Tech Campus

Xi’an, Shaanxi Province, China
2012 (proposal)