Project File: Tight site

The new 110,000-square-foot PS 3 Elementary School, West New York, N.J., is situated on a tight, 1.4-acre site in a densely populated, urban neighborhood. Its plan serves the needs of the school's 700 pre-K to sixth-grade students and members of the surrounding community.

A spacious, three-story common area functions as a gathering area or “town center” for the school and as a circulation link to key functional spaces such as the gymnasium, cafeteria and a 350-seat auditorium. These three facilities also are available for community use after school hours. Children gather on a stepped seating area at the base of this community activity zone's grand staircase to hear stories and to participate in special activities.

The 4,500-square-foot media center above the entry reinforces the client's perception of this space as the “heart” of the school. This design choice also allows for the entry forecourt below the media center to function as a protected, outdoor play area — one of two playgrounds.

An effort was made to take advantage of south and north exposure to direct daylighting. All spaces, including circulation and functional areas and classrooms, benefit from daylighting because of the orientation of the school facility.

The architect is Gruzen Samton Architects (New York City).

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