Students who fall within the autism spectrum are often overlooked in public education. To address the problem, a group of New York City parents came together in 2001 to create the LearningSpring School, a private day school that serves 108 students in grades K-8. Thanks to the thoughtful design of Platt Byard Dovell White Architects, the students will be moving to a new eight-story, vertically oriented campus on the corner of 20th Street and 2nd Avenue in Manhattan. The new school was built specifically to accomodate the needs of the children, incorporates a variety of green technologies, and has earned LEED Gold certification.
The new interior facility accommodates the specific social, physical, and educational needs of those it serves. The design is transparent and open, encouraging collaboration. Glass-enclosed stairways connect the floors and classrooms are designed in pairs so that resources can be shared in a common area between the two. Quiet alcoves can be found off the corridors throughout the building to promote informal socialization.
Materials for both the interior and exterior were carefully selected. Inside, the classrooms and hallways feature bamboo casework, cork floors which help with noise absorption, and natural wall fabrics that create a soothing learning environment. On the exterior, an aluminum and stainless steel sunscreen supported by an external steel armature protect the building from the southeast exposure to the sun. A terracotta rain-screen extends along the base of the building.
Thanks to the architects’ meticulous attention to materials and design, the building has achieved LEED Gold certification. It’s the first of its kind in New York State to achieve such a rank under the LEED For Schools program. Several distinguishing features helped the LearningSpring School gain this recognition. Every classroom enjoys neighborhood views and is filled with natural light. Energy-saving specs such as the aluminum sunshades and zinc rain screen spandrels which help minimize solar gain, operable windows for natural ventilation, low water-flow fixtures, and high-efficiency equipment for energy savings also distinguish the design. The school was also acknowledged with the AIA/CAE Educational Facility Design Award in 2011.
Images courtesy of Platt Byard Dovell White Architects