Three Buildings Make the Grade

Event: From Kindergarten to College: Three Recent Projects that Show the Way
Location: Center for Architecture, 11.03.09
Speakers: Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP — Partner, Dattner Architects; Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA — Polshek Partnership Architects; Jean Oei — Project Designer, Morphosis
Introduction: Bruce Barrett — Vice President of Architecture and Engineering, NYC School Construction Authority
Organizer: AIANY Architecture for Education Committee


41 Cooper Square.

Jessica Sheridan

The NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) has the task of building new public schools and managing the design, construction, and renovation of capital projects in New York City’s more than 1,200 public schools. As the SCA’s vice president of architecture and engineering, Bruce Barrett has shepherded many projects, two of which, P.S./I.S. 276 in Battery Park City, currently under construction, and the recently completed Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Astoria, Queens. The third project in the program, Cooper Union’s new academic building, hardly needs an introduction as it has been a source of wonderment since it began construction catty-corner to the school’s Foundation Building.

The steady influx of young families to lower Manhattan prompted the city and the Battery Park City Authority (BPCA) to fund a new school for approximately 950 pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students. The eight-story, 125,000-square-foot building will occupy the last parcel of vacant land in Battery Park City. Designed by Dattner Architects, who co-authored the SCA’s Green Schools Guide in 2007 with the SCA’s architecture and engineering technical standards and support studio, the school will be one of the first in the city to be built under the green guidelines. It will also incorporate the goals of AIANY and NYC Department of Health’s Fit City program, while conforming to the BPCA’s design standards.

The high-rise’s curved profile and exterior will be clad in brick. A 10,000-square-foot outdoor playroof will be built on the third floor, and an outdoor multi-purpose room will be created on the eighth floor. To make the building more environmentally sound, all classrooms will be well lit with natural light to reduce the need for overhead lighting. Combined with extra insulation, solar panels, high-efficiency boilers, and other equipment, the school is anticipated to reduce its energy costs by more than 25%. Roof-mounted photovoltaic cells alone will generate 50 kilowatts of energy — roughly one-third of the energy needed to light the school. High-efficiency plumbing will also let the school use 40% less potable water, and 80% of the building’s construction waste will be recycled. According to Daniel Heuberger, AIA, LEED AP, a partner at Dattner, the design will also teach sustainability. For example, a planted green wall and a weather station will be adjacent to the science room. The school will also embark on a “My School, My Planet” signage campaign, based on LEED principles.

At the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts, “the building is doing a performance,” said its designer Susan T. Rodriguez, FAIA, of Polshek Partnership Architects. Another public/private initiative to create a model NYC public high school for the arts, developed by the SCA in partnership with Exploring the Arts, this new public high school is located in Astoria. Formally, spatially, and experientially, the design of the 147,000-square-foot building celebrates the visual and performing arts, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary interchange, and connecting the building with the surrounding film/TV production facilities, museums, and the community itself. The focal point of the school is the 800-seat Tony Bennett Concert Hall, whose curved form is visible from the street through a double-height lobby. Day-lit classrooms line the perimeter, and studios open onto the central atrium on each floor. The school also has two black box theaters, a roof terrace, and pianos on every floor. A list of influential artists in the city is engraved in a fret pattern on glass that can be read from the interior, reminding students that they, too, can follow in their footsteps.

Morphosis, in collaboration with Gruzen Samton, were commissioned in 2003 to design 41 Cooper Square for the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Making up for 14,000 square feet lost when one of the school’s buildings was demolished, the building is home to the school of engineering and a support space for the art and architecture school. A vertical piazza forms the social and virtual heart of the new building. A full-height atrium enables unique circulation for building occupants, improves the airflow, and provides increased interior day lighting. Undulating latticework envelopes a 20-foot-wide grand stair. The lattice system is part of the guardrail system and gives shape to the space. A “skip-stop” circulation strategy allows for both increased physical activity and for more impromptu meeting opportunities. An operable building skin made of perforated stainless steel panels offsets from a glass-and-aluminum window wall. The panels reduce the impact of heat radiation during the summer and insulate interior spaces during the winter. Radiant heating and cooling ceiling panels will boost energy efficiency. The building also features a green roof and a cogeneration plant. Built to LEED Gold standards and likely to achieve a Platinum rating, 41 Cooper Square will be the first LEED-certified academic laboratory building in NYC.