El Sitio Feliz Community Pavilion

In 2016, The Design Workshop undertook the design and construction of a new pavilion, seating space and play-scape for a Community Garden in East Harlem that is referred to as El Sitio Feliz (Spanish for the Happy Site). The garden is attached to The Union Settlement Association, a resource for East Harlem residents of all ages, and a passionate advocate for the needs of under served communities. They bring education, wellness and community-building programs to the neighborhood, empowering people with opportunities to better their lives. It was up to The Design Workshop to re-imagine the community’s outdoor space, from the pavilion to the playground all the way down to the ground scape, the site was re-worked and updated providing longevity for the garden and its community. The team, comprised of 15 students of the Department of Architecture, Interior Design and Lighting Design executed all aspects of the project. The Spring Design Studio, led by faculty members Nicholas Brinen and Victoria Marshall was structured to enable the collaborative nature of the Design Workshop, with the group moving from 15 individual designs, to 5 paired schemes, to 3 preliminary schemes within the frame of a month. After multiple meetings with representatives of The Union Settlement, a single scheme was determined and then revised through models, studies, full-scale mock-ups and construction documents. By the end of the spring semester, the team had a fi nal set of construction documents, materials identifi ed, a budget established and were ready to begin the summer construction on site.

Images and Plans


Technical Description

For the build portion of the studio, the team started by demolishing the outdated pavilion and play structures to prepare for the new design construction. Working from 6am into the evenings, Monday through Friday every week, the team excavated the site, poured the foundations, fabricated the wooden benches, erected the wooden framing and decking, prepared the pavilion structure (comprised of a combination of steel, wood louvers and polycarbonate), and installed the new play structures and rubber matting. The finalized project transformed the areas around the community garden, which serves as a hub for various community programs and events:

Design Elements Include:
• A new 600 sq. ft. communal pavilion with seating and storage that allows for shelter from the
elements, a place to sit and relax or a central point for annual events
• New benches on the west end of the garden for additional seating
• New benches adjacent to the playground area for additional seating as well as a place for parents to
watch their children while they play
• Two new playground structures (one for children 6 months - 3 years old, one for children 4+ years
• A redesigned poured rubber matting scheme that takes colors from Union Settlement and
implements them into the playground area, giving more of an identity to the park and garden
• A solar powered lighting scheme throughout the site that allows for use of the space during night