Project File: Blending in

Dec. 1, 2005
The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB), Nassau County, N.Y.

Nassau County, N.Y., is a densely populated area with little undeveloped land. The Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB), N.Y., a private Jewish day school, found a site that could accommodate its need for a new high school for 300 boys, but it was surrounded by single-family homes.

The architect developed a plan and design for two new buildings to blend into the neighborhood. On a relatively small piece of land, HALB got an actual campus — not a predictable, overscaled building plunked into a residential neighborhood.

The plan called for two buildings that frame a large lawn where children can play soccer and informal outdoor games. The buildings are connected by an elevated glass bridge that overlooks the lawn and allows light to come into stairwells on either side; a plaza is below. One building holds the gym and library; the other includes classrooms, offices, and a room for contemplation and prayer. The school has about 50,000 square feet of usable space.

The design is self-referential; it keeps looking in and back onto itself, specifically at the bridge, which is physically central and is a tremendous source for light to enter into the interior stairs and corridors. Below it, the plaza functions as a town square; students congregate there, weather permitting, when not in class.

The architect is Guenther 5 Architects (New York City).

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