Speakers of “Community Schools: Process, Program, and Promise.” (l-r) Mark Thaler, AIA, Gensler; Kimberly Murphya, AIA, Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects; Jack Doyle, New Settlement Apartments; Jeffrey Dugan, AIA, Dattner; and Vincent Lee, Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers.

Two Cools for School

New schools are often touted as being built for the communities in which they are built; however, many merely provide seats for increasing populations. Two recent schools show what it takes to become community resources. The New Settlement Community Campus in the Bronx resulted from a design collaboration between Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects and Dattner Architects; each was appointed by New Settlement and the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA), respectively. The Henderson-Hopkins School by Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers is an early step in revitalizing an East Baltimore neighborhood. By engaging the community from the start, they became the community schools they are.

The New Settlement Community Campus began with an initiative from New Settlement Apartments, an organization that provides affordable housing to families in the Mount Eden neighborhood of the Bronx, the poorest U.S. congressional district. The organization partnered with the SCA to realize a building comprising three schools, facilities dedicated to children with autism, and a community center, which is shared with the schools. The 172,000-square-foot facility seats more than 1,000 pre-K to 12th-grade students. The overlapping of program – which includes a gymnasium, auditorium, exercise facilities, a pool, and rooftop gardens – provides community awareness and heightened stewardship of education and the importance of the shared resource. Eight neighborhoods now use the facilities, and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater hosts classes for the students. Kimberly Murphy, AIA, of Edelman Sultan Knox Wood, called the school a “growth opportunity,” while Jeffrey Dugan, AIA, of Dattner Architects, noted that it “raises the bar” for the community.

Meanwhile, 200 miles to the south, in the heart of the community that provided the inspiration for the television series The Wire, Rogers Partners took a slightly different approach. The 125,000-square-foot facility was the first new, ground-up school built in Baltimore in 30 years. It occupies two city blocks and provides seats for 600 kindergarten to 8th-grade students. The competition-winning scheme, selected in part by neighborhood representatives and educators, began design in earnest with community workshops and crits. The school also shares amenities with the neighborhood, including a library, meeting rooms, and a childcare center. Designed in deference to the historical fabric and a local church landmark, Vincent Lee, AIA, said: “This is not romantic. The [neighboring] houses won’t be there so the school is an incubator for future development.”

New Settlement Apartments Executive Director Jack Doyle recounted that New Settlement bussed people from the SCA to experience the Mount Eden neighborhood so everyone would understand the issues and needs at hand. “The collaboration brought out the client, architects, and users,” he explained. Similarly, Lee was committed to designing a school that would resonate with the users: “The concept had community buy-in, so it adhered to an idea.” Moderator Mark Thaler, AIA, of Gensler, rhetorically asked during his introductory comments: “Does the project improve the community and live up to expectations?” During the course of the evening, Doyle assured “people look at this and say, ‘Something good can happen.'”

James Way, Assoc. AIA, Marketing Manager at Dattner Architects, frequently contributes to eOculus.

Event: Community Schools: Process, Program, and Promise
Speakers: Jack Doyle, Executive Director, New Settlement Apartments; Kimberly Murphy, AIA, Associate, Edelman Sultan Knox Wood / Architects; Jeffrey Dugan, AIA, Principal, Dattner Architects; Vincent Lee, AIA, Associate Partner, Rogers Partners Architects+Urban Designers; and Mark Thaler AIA, Senior Associate, Educational Practice Leader, Gensler (moderator)
Organizers: AIANY Architecture for Education Committee
Sponsors: Big Ass Solutions