The program was to design a K-6 charter school with an emphasis on the Arts. The existing factory to be converted had only one perimeter wall with windows and was very dark. The client wanted to promote the arts and community participation through a strong street presence in the urban industrial neighborhood. The school also wanted to explore educational ideas about openness and easy communication that could be encouraged by the built environment. The challenge was to turn an old factory into a light filled, friendly, sustainable design with open planning elements that meets the needs of children in a nurturing arts environment.
The school is located in an urban industrial neighborhood in South Bronx, New York. It shares the street with auto repair shops, warehouses and small factories. This site is located at the end of Longfellow Ave. and encompasses a sausage factory and a fur factory with a combined area of 23,700 s.f.
The floor plan of the school combines a traditional school layout with an open design. Through the utilization of multi-use shared spaces called “pods” the school is able to expand learning spaces outside of classrooms into zones that promote interaction between teachers, students and faculty. At an urban scale, music, art and dance rooms that occupy the picture-windowed facade provide visibility from street level and connect the arts to the community.
The building incorporates various sustainable features and exceeds the minimum standards for air changes and natural light. Filtered fresh air and north facing skylights supply the building with an ethereal aesthetic and healthy environment for children. Additionally, the natural top skylight reduces heat gain and insulates the roof, allowing the school to spend less money on heating and cooling.
The incorporation of bright color throughout the school creates an identity with a bold palette that evokes the potential for a multitude of color combinations. Bright color glazed brick tiles, floor tiles, door and window frames, carpets and furnishings are coordinated to promote this idea of vibrancy and unity.