Philadelphia’s oldest and largest healthcare provider serving the LGBTQ community, Mazzoni Center began as an all-volunteer clinic in 1979. As the need for comprehensive health and social services grew, so did the organization. Today, Mazzoni Center supports over 35,000 individuals a year with services encompassing the full spectrum of health and wellness. Mazzoni Center patients and clients benefit from primary healthcare, counseling and recovery, HIV prevention and care, psychosocial services, legal support, education, and outreach.

For all of the comprehensive services provided, Mazzoni lacked a “center.” Its services and administrative functions were spread across several city buildings, all filled to capacity. In order to grow, Mazzoni Center needed a new home. Coscia Moos Architecture (Philadelphia) was engaged by developer Alterra Property Group (Philadephia) to transform a former two-story office building into Mazzoni Center’s new multipurpose headquarters.

The shared goal was to create an efficient, organized, and welcoming facility that would for the first time assemble all Mazzoni Center services under one roof as an LGBTQ community center. The complex mix of healthcare and social services—along with the administrative and executive staffs required to keep the mix running—made for a programmatic challenge. In order to expand vertically, the building also required removal of its existing column grid, insertion of a new structural steel framework, and helical piles driven deep into Philadelphia’s notoriously unstable soil.

Once the building was structurally sound, Coscia Moos organized it according to privacy concerns, orienting more public-facing spaces—a food bank, outpatient therapy rooms, and the pharmacy—on the first floor. The healthcare practice is located on the second floor. Executive offices and meeting space appear on the third floor, while administrative functions take the top floor.

Privacy, safety, and comfort became touchstones of the design. Attempts to minimize sound transmission between counseling rooms, replacing traditional-stall restrooms with gender-neutral individual restrooms, placing like services nearby for staff collaboration and coordination, and selecting colorful and comfortable furnishings contribute to a welcoming environment. The architecture emphasizes flexibility; for example, demountable partitions frame a counseling suite that can be reconfigured economically in the future.

Demonstrating the collaboration that the new Mazzoni Center would foster, the client and design teams conducted weekly meetings to review progress and make decisions in real-time. Mazzoni Center user groups often participated in meetings, sharing their input about how their divisions operated and the concerns faced by their patients or clients. This regular, consistent dialogue armed the design team with a better understanding of their audiences, so that they could make decisions with a positive impact.

To fulfill Mazzoni Center’s goal of becoming a community center, a Town Hall was incorporated into the design. The 1,800-square-foot all-purpose meeting room adjacent to a staff café and outdoor space can be used for internal or external programming, meetings, or events. It provides an opportunity to welcome the public and foster stronger relations within and outside the LGBTQ community.

Mazzoni Center opened and occupied its new facility in summer 2017.

Project team:
Owner and developer: Alterra Property Group
Owner's representation: Savills Studley
Architecture and interior design: Coscia Moos Architecture
Structural engineering: Cooke Brown
MEP engineering: Urban Technology
Construction: How Properties