Project File: Two in one

The educational philosophy that students do better in an educational setting of continuity as opposed to a separate junior high or middle school generated the design of PS/IS 109, Brooklyn, N.Y. The facility is really two schools and a community center; the schools share an auditorium, gymnasium and cafeteria. The program for 1,100 students includes an extensive special-education component and community use during after-hours and on weekends.

Defined horizontally by the curved wall, the lobby is “Main Street” and the focus of the school. It links shared facilities and the two “streets” defining the IS and PS classroom wings. On the ground floor, this organization creates a special place made up of entrances, and access to the gym, auditorium and cafeteria. It also works on the upper floors, providing access to the library, science, technology and art spaces — all shared.

To limit classroom elements to three stories and provide adequate outdoor play space, the cafeteria was tucked under the IS classroom wing. Keeping the major air-conditioning ducts over the serving area allowed for the ceiling to step up toward the active play area, giving the room a sense of light and space within the standard floor-to-floor dimension.

The school's design relates to the low-rise scale of the neighborhood; establishes both separation and integration of the PS and IS; facilitates bus access from two streets; and provides for separation and security of classrooms from after-hour community use.

The architect for this project is Gran Associates Architects and Planners (New York City).

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