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Promesa Inc.

July 1, 2007
by root
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Detox and rehabilitation program

Photography © Bjorg Magnea

Administrators at Promesa Inc., an addiction treatment organization in the New York City borough of the Bronx, couldn't identify many innovative models of design to borrow from when they set out to establish a new-look detox center. “We wanted to move away from the institutional look of other similar facilities,” says Lisa Garay, Promesa's chief operating officer. “We wanted to create an environment that was client-centered and that created more of a community sense, a feeling of support and compassion.”

Working in partnership with the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, which has sought to improve detox and rehabilitation options in the state's continuum of publicly financed care, Promesa settled on a design for its newest program that arguably exceeds any notion of what is possible. The program, which is being called Amanecer (Spanish for “dawn”), occupies renovated space that formerly housed a Promesa residential treatment program, in a building that decades ago served as a nursing home.

“Amenecer” is an apt reference for a site where outdoor light streams in throughout. Between the renovated site's smaller detox unit and larger rehab program, only one room in the entire facility does not offer some exterior view through windows. Garay remarks that a design that departs from the stark look of traditional facilities should boost patients' spirit from the outset. “This conveys a message of, `We care about you and have created a great space for you to get well in.'”

The design also reinforces the concept of continuity of care, as many elements and color patterns carry over from the five-day detox setting to the 21-day rehabilitation side. A juxtaposition of earth tones set against bolder reds and blues creates both warmth and energy—giving a life-affirming feel overall, in the words of Peter Syrett, principal of Guenther 5 Architects PLLC, the firm that designed the Promesa renovation.

Numerous design and materials decisions were made with clients' interests in mind. A no-wax protocol for the building's flooring will contribute to improved air quality. Modern designs for the facility's common bathrooms convey a non-institutional feel. With most of the larger common areas connected to one another without imposing dividers, clients will experience a more community-like feeling of support in their pursuit of recovery.

Syrett adds, “We obsessed about daylight [in the design]. It is the most energizing resource you can bring into a building.”

Perhaps the most surprising feature of all actually is found directly above the facility, as Promesa created a rooftop patio setting where patients can congregate in a space furnished with benches and planters—an urban garden of sorts in the Bronx.

The first patients arrived at Amanecer in June; the site serves both men and women. Individuals addicted to alcohol, opiates, or benzodiazepines may receive treatment at the facility. Even before the site officially opened, both Promesa staff and referral sources were beaming over what they were seeing in this new facility's approach. As a result, Garay expects this design will set the bar for other renovations as Promesa upgrades additional facilities in the future.