Posts tagged with "Schools":

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All Planning Is Local

One of the roles played by the city's 59 community boards—besides issuing liquor licenses—is to oversee local planning issues, and while the input of the board is only advisory, it tends to weigh in the decision making of the City Planning Commission (as was the case at Hudson Yards earlier this week) and the City Council. The only problem is, the boards have no professional planners on staff. Manhattan has been blessed with a great deal of help the past three years, however, thanks to a fellowship program begun by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, and today he announced it will hopefully be expanding to the entire city by next year. Stringer is no stranger to the plight of the community boards, as he joined his when he was still a teenager, and empowering the boards has been a central issue on his agenda. (Like the boards, the borough president's job is as much advocacy and ceremony as it is real executive power, at least since the dissolution of the Board of Estimates in 1989.) Upon taking office in 2006, Stringer launched his Planning Fellowship Program to help place planning students from the surrounding universities—Pratt, Columbia, Hunter, City College, Rutgers, NYU, and the New School—with the 12 community boards in Manhattan. While their work was part time, they helped out with technical challenges, research, and special projects that even the boards' land-use experts struggled with or lacked the time to execute, as highlighted in a story we wrote the following year. This year, two Brooklyn boards—Fort Greene and Park Slope—have picked up fellows, and Stringer, with the backing of the Bloomberg administration, which controls his and the boards' budgets, said today at a press conference that he hopes to have fellows in every board in all five boroughs by the start of the next academic year. Starting this year, the program is no longer run out of the planning department of his office but at Hunter College, which has been the lead partner on it since day one. "With all that my office has accomplished since becoming Borough President, I can honestly say that the Community Planning Fellowship Program is one of our proudest achievements to date," Stringer said in a release. "Not only has the Program focused new attention on what should be the primary role of community boards—neighborhood-based planning—but it has also helped shift the focus of a new generation of professional urban planners toward a real understanding of how community members, local government and land use experts interact and engage in discussions about the future shape of our city." And while we're happy the hear the program is expanding, it can't happen fast enough. After all, just look at the areas being served—Manhattan and two of Brooklyn's toniest neighborhoods—and it becomes clear that those boards still in need of the most help have yet to receive it.
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Head of the Class

The AIA just announced the projects that received the highest marks in this year’s Educational Facility Design Awards, and they’re a diverse class – the 13 winners run the gamut from urban to rural, elementary to university, built to unbuilt. Deemed “excellent” by the jury, Antoine Predock Architect’s Indian Community School follows a long ridge on a former farm outside Milwaukee, sidestepping historic trees and sporting a roof of overlapping angled planes that blends into the site’s topography.  Bohlin Cywinski Jackson’s Visitor Center for the Parks Service in Pennsylvania borrows from its setting to make a plea for environmental consciousness instead:  its shingles were cut on-site from old tires found in the streams and woods nearby. The urban designs may be more constrained by their settings, but they acquit themselves admirably.  In Chicago, OWP|P converted Ralph Ellison elementary school into a high school, renovating the original 1926 limestone building and grafting on a modern glass box with a mosaic of glazed windows.  Another striking visual comes from Daly Genik Architects:  On a long, skinny site sandwiched between two highways in Los Angeles, their industrial-chic Camino Nuevo High School has corrugated metal sides that muffle street sounds while cooling the building at the same time: stylish and smart. Full list of winners: “Excellent”: Indian Community School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Antoine Predock Architect, PC) Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut (Kieran Timberlake) Environmental Education/Visitor Activity Center, National Park Service, Pennsylvania (Bohlin Cywinski Jackson) “Merit”: Francis Parker School, San Diego, California (Lake|Flato Architects) ASU Polytechnic Academic Complex, Mesa, Arizona (RSP Architects, Ltd. in association with Lake|Flato Architects) Camino Nuevo High School, Los Angeles, California (Daly Genik) Canada’s National Ballet School, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects) “Citation": Cornell University West Campus Residence Initiative, Ithaca, New York (Kieran Timberlake) Staples Elementary School, Easton, Connecticut (The S|L|A|M Collaborative) Ralph Ellison Campus, Chicago, Illinois (OWP|P) Avon Old Farms Beaston Performing Arts Center, Avon, Connecticut (The S|L|A|M Collaborative) Modular Zero Energy Classroom, Hawaii (Anderson Anderson Architecture) Green Dot Animo Leadership High School, Lennox, California (Pugh + Scarpa Architects, Inc.)
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Sidwell It Is

As if we haven't written enough about Barack Obama or schools of late (what can we say, we're in the tank with the rest of the press), we still can't help but weigh in on the Obamas' decision to send their daughters to the Sidwell Friends School. Sure, there's been tons said already about the school's Quaker values and its symbolic standing in D.C., even the hypocrisy of the choice. But what really matters--and hopefully speaks volumes for the coming administration--is the school itself. No, not the teachers. We're talking about the building, and the middle school in particular, which happens to be the first LEED Platinum grade school in the country. Here's what I wrote about the school in a Studio Visit last year with the firm behind the project, KieranTimberlake Associates (KTA):
The Sidwell Friends School has always fostered environmental stewardship, as befits the Quaker values on which the institution was founded. When it came time to renovate the dilapidated red brick middle school, administrators realized they had an opportunity to turn the entire school into a green classroom. "Everywhere the building functions environmentally, they wanted it to be an opportunity for learning," KTA senior associate Richard Maimon said. Among the features KTA included are a green roof that functions as a garden and lab; a graywater system that not only feeds a lush wetland but includes a diagram--which hangs near the wetland for all to see--explaining the system; and wooden louvres reclaimed from old wine barrels, which, like most of the material, are locally sourced. "It may be the only LEED Platinum school in the country, but the real point is to teach," Maimon said.
Steve Kieran happened to be visiting the school on Monday, just days after the announcement was made, and said that everyone was thrilled by the news, including himself. "Sure, I'm proud," he said in a phone interview from the firm's offices in Philadelphia. "In this regard, it's probably the totality of the whole picture that's involved [that drove the Obamas' decision]. Certainly part of that picture is the whole greening of the campus and having the first LEED Platinum school." "It's a wonderful thing for us and the school, it's a wonderful thing for green design," he added. "Given Obama's stated agenda, it would be stunning if it weren't part of the decision to attend." While only Malia, 11, will start off at the school straight away as she enters fifth grade, her younger sister, Sasha, 7, has four years at the lower school to contend with first. We bet it's worth the wait.
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Getting Schooled

Last Thursday AN California Editor Sam Lubell (author... ahem... of this post) moderated the first in a series of panels hosted by the AIA/LA called Design Dialogues. The discussion centered around educational design, and panelists included Hraztan Zeitlian of Leo A Daly Architects, John Enright of Griffin Enright Architects, and John Friedman of John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects. Panelists showed off their ambitious plans for new academic buildings like Zeitlian's LAUSD South Region High School #9 (pictured above), which takes design and planning cues from the nearby LA River and its industrial infrastructure; and Friedman's Claremont McKenna Athletic Center (below), a meticulously organized facility with dramatic open spaces and an eclectic facade that is aiming for a LEED Gold rating. Enright presented his St. Thomas the Apostle School project, which creates a new multipurpose room with a cantilevered "urban porch," providing valuable public urban space in a cramped area. All three discussed the challenges of working within the often restrictive educational realm. Perhaps the biggest challenge, pointed out Zeitlian, was not only designing an innovative new scheme that addressed its context, but also responding to the thorough review process of the LAUSD. Enright suggested that keeping costs down allowed for a surprising amount of design freedom on his project. At least until the next round of value engineering.