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Inside Skidmore, Owings & Merrill's imposing Bronx 911 call center

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It serves as a call center for the fire, police and medical services departments

Photo courtesy SOM / © Albert Vecerka | Esto

Driving along the Pelham Parkway or Hutchinson River Parkway in Pelham Bay you might notice a silvery, somewhat monolithic structure along the road. That recently completed structure is New York City’s Public Safety Awareness Center II (PSAC II) otherwise known as the center where 911 calls are answered by emergency response workers from three different agencies: the police department, the fire department, and emergency medical services.

The 450,000-square-foot building was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) as a perfect cube. To avoid that monolithic feel to a structure that is supposed to prioritize safety and privacy above all else, the architects on the project developed a serrated facade for this building with aluminum panels.

The few windows that do exist are mostly centered around “the 50,000-square-foot, L-shaped call room, which has 30-foot ceilings,” the New York Times described, when it stopped by at the building last year.

This building will supplement the work carried out by PSAC I, which is located at the MetroTech campus in Downtown Brooklyn. The sleek new center in the Bronx was a project undertaken by the city’s Department of Design and Construction for the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.

To liven up an otherwise stressful and unrelenting environment, the architects designed a sculptural berm of wild grass that envelops the base of the building. The berm also works as an additional layer of security for the building. Inside, the building features a plant wall that was developed by the design research laboratory of SOM, CASE along with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The green wall filters the air in the building and reduces its energy consumption as well.

While the building is now complete, it’s still being tested by the emergency response agencies, and a formal ribbon cutting ceremony to officially open the building will likely take place later this year.