Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © Paul Warchol
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto
Photo © David Sundberg/Esto

The Stephen Gaynor School and Ballet Hispanico

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New York, NY

This Manhattan home for the Stephen Gaynor School and the Ballet Hispanico houses elementary and middle school children with learning differences on the first seven floors; the ballet occupies the top three. The project recaptures the intimate spirit of the school’s former small brownstone site by dividing the program into upper and lower schools, stitched together with a generous atrium stair. The design addresses the unique needs of these students who often have orientation and navigation challenges. The building’s concrete structure visible inside creates spatial geometries particular to each floor. This strategy, coupled with the interconnecting stair, means there is almost no spatial repetition in order to create an environment where architecture and pedagogy merge to enhance spatial cognition and navigation skills. In addition, the school’s teaching spaces incorporate breakout spaces into each classroom to promote socializations skills. Teaching specialists now come to the classrooms, rather than have the young student(s) travel about the building. The social structure of the classroom becomes more constant and confirming through this spatial accommodation. 


The upper and lower schools intersect at a common core curriculum level featuring shared art, science, occupational therapy and library spaces. An outdoor classroom above a large library window gives students a visual connection to the surrounding neighborhood. The Ballet Hispanico above the Gaynor School houses three large studios, new offices, and services for the company and school staff. The studios are floor-through spaces to allow optimal natural light and ventilation, and to permit a broad range of choreographic possibilities. Each studio has panoramic views of the city to the north and south.   


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