Founded in 1983, the Abraham Joshua Heschel School provides over 800 students in pre-K through high school an enriching learning environment that fosters education, an integration of general and Jewish studies, and responsibility to Jewish and world communities. Named in honor of Theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel, the school’s new 145,000-square-foot, 8-story building designed by Gruzen Samton, incorporates early childhood, lower, and middle school programs adjacent to the existing Heschel High School in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, creating a unified campus.
A comprehensive environmental graphics and wayfinding sign program was designed that responds to the School’s specific needs, as well as the varied spaces of the new facility, including administrative offices, chapel, gymnasium, auditorium, library, cafeteria, academic centers, and a rooftop, outdoor play area. The designers developed a vibrant color coding system to easily differentiate the school’s 8 floors, as well as a modular sign panel system used for all public information requirements including directional, office identification, classroom identification, and regulatory signs relating to building, health, accessibility, fire, and ADA codes. Colorful, changeable sign panels were designed to display room numbers, room names, teachers’ names, and donor recognition in English and Hebrew. Side-light windows on classroom doorways were fitted with specially designed perforated aluminum panels featuring silkscreened room numbers and magnetic slots to display changeable information.
The design team also developed an exterior and interior donor recognition program for the school. Translucent cast resin panels are located throughout the building displaying donor names with verses from the Shema, a Hebrew prayer, creating a layered visual effect. A donor recognition wall was also developed with a Hebrew prayer spelled out in 2-inch-high aluminum letters located above curvilinear panels arranged in a three-dimensional, woven pattern, symbolizing community. Donor names are printed onto the panels in 3 shades ranging from light to dark, distinguishing donor levels. The panel system was designed to appear complete at all times while allowing for the periodic addition of new names.