The building at the corner of East 151st Street and Walton Avenue would fit in with Postmodern luxury apartment and hotel buildings in hip quarters of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Not only does it have a distinctive facade, it also has a notable design pedigree. This pedigree reflects the work of Ennead Architects (formerly Polshek Partnership), which is the firm responsible for a number of high-profile projects including the High Line spanning Standard Hotel. But instead of housing the well-heeled, this is an intake center for homeless families called the PATH (Prevention Assistance and Temporary Housing) center.

The PATH center, which replaced an “inefficient and appalling” facility when it opened in 2011, was one of the first New York City buildings to be designed under a process called Design + Construction Excellence that aims to provide “efficient, contemporary, and visually-engaging civic structures.” Its colorful facade consists of red, orange, and gray panels, terra cotta, and zinc and metal trim, with irregular fenestration that offers extensive natural lighting.

Although good design cannot remedy all the problems of those in urgent need of shelter, the 7-story PATH building also provides a number of interior innovations meant to ease the burdens of those coming to the building for help. For example, electronic zipper signs provide information to help people navigate the building to find caseworkers and other workers and services.