Construction is under way on a new early childhood center (ECC) at the site of PS 94X, 3530 Kings College Place in the Bronx.
The project was designed by Gran Kriegel Associates on behalf of the New York City School Construction Authority. Citnalta Construction Corp. of Bohemia, New York is serving as the general contractor.
The Bronx center is among the first schools in New York City to have been designed in compliance with Local Law 86, following the NYC Green Schools Guide and Rating System. This system is based on the LEED Green Building Rating System, and was deemed equivalent for the purposes of Local Law 86. The new ECC, which will serve pre-K through 3rd grade students, will be the equivalent of a LEED silver facility.
The new building shares a site with the existing PS 94X in the Bronx, which is currently home to pre-kindergarten through eighth grades. Low-rise, 1920s red-brick apartment buildings surround the school grounds, and the existing school features tan brick detailed in cast stone designed by Charles B.J. Snyder, who was the chief architect of city schools between 1891 and 1922.
Gran Kriegel detailed the new ECC to draw from both the neighborhood’s red brick and the Snyder school’s tan-colored brick. The historical building has pronounced bays defined by precast elements which the designers picked up in the basic scale and rhythm of materials in the new structure.
“The early childhood center’s street presence is announced by an iconic form in red brick which mirrors the trapezoidal shape of the site,” said David Kriegel, Gran Kriegel’s managing principal. “A deep, covered courtyard begins the entry sequence, offering a protective place to gather before and after school. A parking area for strollers keeps lobby space free for the children, their parents, teachers, and staff.”
Since PS 94X is on a through-block site which slopes eight feet from Kings College Place to East 211th Street, school users enter the lobby halfway between floor levels to reach the basement and three above-grade floors. Its split-level volume permits a double-height lobby with a sense of formal entry. The sloping site also gave the designers an opportunity to bring daylight into the children’s rooms with basement windows along the primary façade.
“Public economy in school construction dictates that all space be used effectively and efficiently, so the inevitable ‘kid space’ – a cafeteria in the basement – is still bright and cheerful,” Kriegel notes.
Mechanical rooms and offices complete the basement program while a multi-purpose room provides recreational and assembly space on the first floor along with instructional space. The two top floors contain instructional space and the library.
Views from the new ECC open onto a large verdant cemetery on the east and onto the broad playground on the west, giving the urban school unusually long vistas and a sense of open air. Gran Kriegel enlivened each corridor by creating small sunlit gathering spaces at either end of the double-loaded hallways. The effect is achieved by widening each hallway slightly and providing an expanse of glass at each end.
A temporary “mini-school” and assorted transportable buildings once occupied the school’s enormous macadam playground to meet the extra demand for space. The temporary buildings will be removed to allow for construction of the ECC which will be completed in late 2009.
The placement of the two schools on the site will create two distinct play areas for the middle grades and older children as well as a fenced playground for the early childhood center. New pavement and plantings will offer the young children shade and opportunities for active recreation designed specifically for their age group.