Architects: Platt Byard Dovell White Architects
Location: 247 East 20th Street at Second Avenue, New York
Cost: $31 million
Client: Simons Foundation, LearningSpring Elementary School, Margaret Poggi, Head of School, LearningSpring School, Jim Snyder, Board Member, LearningSpring School
Project Team: Ray H. Dovell, AIA, Design Principal; Elissa Icso, AIA, Project Manager; Matthew Mueller, AIA, Project Architect; Erica Gaswirth, LEED AP, Steven Dodds
Photographs: Frederick Charles
Founded in 2001 by a parent group, the LearningSpring School is a 108-student K through 8th grade private day school for children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The new eight-story building is situated on the northwest corner of 20th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. It contains a full range of academic, athletic, and special needs spaces arranged internally as a vertical campus, designed to support the special social, physical, and educational needs of its students.
Higher-occupancy spaces, including the gymnasium, library, and lunchroom, as well as administrative functions, are located on the bottom two floors where the floor plates are the largest. Of the six upper stories, two are for lower school classrooms, two are for shared therapy and special education spaces, and two are for the upper classrooms. Classrooms are paired as suites, sharing resource areas, quiet study rooms, and toilets. To provide ample opportunity for informal socialization, seating alcoves off corridors are spread through the building. Circulation between the floors is through a glass-enclosed communicating stair. Classrooms and corridors are finished with cork floors, bamboo casework, and natural wall fabrics, helping to produce a calm and intimate learning environment.
To protect the façades of the building from the unobstructed southeast exposure to the sun, and to provide a valuable visual buffer from the busy intersection, the building is draped with an aluminum and stainless steel sunscreen supported by an external steel armature. Behind is an aluminum, glass and zinc curtain wall. Flanking the adjacent buildings to the north and west and extending along the base of the building is a terracotta rainscreen. Between the two systems is a vertical band of tubular channel glass marking important circulation spaces within. The resulting architecture provides a welcoming and dignified representation of a group of children and their educators long underserved by the city’s schools.
This fast-track project was the first building in New York State to receive a Gold rating under the rigorous LEED For Schools program. This accomplishment was based on various design and construction features, including the provision of natural daylight and neighborhood views for every classroom. The building’s aluminum sunshades, low-e coated insulated glass units, and zinc rain screen spandrels help to cut solar gain significantly. Other environmentally friendly features include operable windows for natural ventilation, low-flow fixtures for water savings, and high-efficiency equipment for energy savings. The LearningSpring School received an AIA/CAE Educational Facility Design Award in 2011.