Ian M. Ellis, North Brother Island, Bronx, school for autism, bird habitat, reusing buildings on North Brother Island for school for autistic children, autism spectrum disorder, cornell university department of ornithology, new york city parks department, audobon society, buildings left to naturally decay back into habitat, using architecture to address different needs of students, interdependent nature and human systems

Ellis and Peterson want to put the Island back to good use as a school for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as well as stabilize its landscape so that it can serve as a bird habitat again. They propose to restore five of the islands’s existing buildings for reuse by the school and use the existing structures that are further south for field offices for the New York City Parks Department, Cornell University Department of Ornithology and the Audobon Society. The four remaining structures on the island would be left to decay naturally into the bird habitat.

Ellis and Peterson attempt to use architecture to address the spectrum of needs of autistic children. They have designed the school in three clusters. The west cluster would be for children that are in the middle of the spectrum, the central and most protected cluster would be for children who are hypersensitive, and the east cluster, which has the most exposure to the public realm, would be for those students who are hyposensitive and need extra stimulation. The classrooms in all three clusters would be identical, while the roof and garden spaces would provide variety and identity to each cluster.

As for the rest of the island, Ellis and Peterson propose winding paths throughout to entice visitors to explore the island without disturbing the children, the school or the habitat for the birds. There would be open park spaces creating gathering spaces for the public, the school and various research functions happening on the island. For Ellis and Peterson, the island could be an interdependent system where “the unusual mix of program, site, and clients (neuro-typical children, autistic children, researchers, educators, and birds) actually reinforce and enable the success and growth of each other… human or bird.”

+ North Brother Island

+ Ian M. Ellis