One-hundred and sixty years after former slave Anthony Bowen established the first YMCA for African Americans in Washington, D.C., the historic Shaw neighborhood is celebrating the opening of a new, fully appointed Y destined to preserve Bowen’s legacy for a generation to come.
Designed by De Space Designs, the redeveloped YMCA Anthony Bowen connects users to the organization’s past, while also providing the amenities needed to improve their future. Large-format images of former Anthony Bowen members (including Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall and poet Langston Hughes), text installations, and unique artworks tracing the history of the neighborhood greet members as they navigate 44,000 square feet of childcare, wellness, and community space.
“[Our] goal was to deliver the best culturally and contextually relevant design for the Y, and to advance positive social change, innovation,
and social equity,” said Diane Taitt, ASID, Assoc. AIA, founder and managing principal of De Space Designs.
Among the state-of-the-art facility’s highlights are a 27-foot-high climbing wall; a 5,500-square-foot indoor aquatics center with a six-lane pool; a beautiful, stainless steel-filled demonstration kitchen for cooking and nutrition classes; an internet café; and a 3,000-square-foot outdoor ipe wood terrace. A variety of flexible community spaces, including a four-room nursery, lobby lounge, and meeting and conference rooms, help further the Y’s community mission.
“People still need places to meet, educate children, and learn ways to improve their well-being,” said Janice Williams, senior vice president of program development for the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington. “That’s what this ‘YMCA of the new age’ can accomplish, while serving as a model for how urban YMCAs can operate in the future.”