Avenues invested $60 million for the design and construction required to convert this landmark building designed by celebrated architect Cass Gilbert into a state-of-the-art school facility. A team of internationally known and experienced architects (Perkins Eastman) and interior designers (Bonetti/Kozerski) led this transformation.
When the campus opened for students in fall 2012, we were confident it would be viewed as one of the finest school facilities in Manhattan. Here are eight reasons why:
Few school facilities are unbounded on all four sides, allowing superior access and light. The Chelsea campus has 600 linear feet of street and park frontage, including a 200-foot “dining porch” overlooking the High Line; 200 feet on Tenth Avenue for the main entrance; 100 feet on 26th Street for the Early Learning Center entrance; and 100 feet on 25th Street for service deliveries.
There are more than 700 ten-foot-high windows in the building. Virtually all classrooms have three of these as their centerpiece.
Public floors (on the first and third floors) have 15- to 18-foot ceilings. Many floors have 20- to 25-foot “double height” spaces. Typical classroom floors have 11.5 foot ceilings, and “dropped ceilings” have been avoided wherever possible.
This campus is characteristic of a well-designed Chelsea loft. Extraordinary attention was given to all aspects of the floor plan, the elevations, furniture and equipment.
Economics do not allow center-city schools the space that is common in boarding schools or suburban schools, but Avenues’ Chelsea campus is spacious. The 215,000-square-foot campus encompasses ten floors, a full basement and a rooftop play space. It offers students 10 to 20 percent more space than is typical in other metropolitan independent school facilities.
To pursue individual work, students must have a place in which to do it. The Lower and Upper Divisions feature well-appointed, open-area “studios” for students to work on their own.
As technological devices are constantly changing, the most important aspect of school design technology is a robust infrastructure that includes strong and ubiquitous wireless connectivity, sufficient bandwidth and plenty of electrical capacity. In addition, good presentation and instructional technology are part of every classroom setting.
It is important to “walk the walk” on sustainability. Key aspects of the sustainability plan are use of a pre-existing building and complete replacement of all windows to ensure efficient heating and cooling.
All in all, the Chelsea campus is an outstanding place for students to live and learn.
The Avenues flagship campus exemplifies a best-practice approach that combines the best from the fields of technology, ergonomics and environmental design with the experience of top educators and school administrators from around the world.
Avenues is a place of connectivity where students and faculty can exchange and interact in the best sense of what a school should be. The verticality of the ten-story building allows the division of the Early Learning Center, Lower Division, middle and upper grades programs into two-floor units and gives each its own identity. All the divisions are connected with vertical openings between floors to allow improved light transmittance through the floor plate and to establish a visual connection between like floors and fill spaces with the natural light that is characteristic of a Chelsea loft.
The first floor contains the main entries, the parents’ café and Avenues’ major music support facilities. The second floor and part of the fourth floor are dedicated to the Early Learning Center classrooms for three- and four-year-olds. The third floor contains Avenues’ two dining halls and a studio workspace for the Upper School. This floor, directly adjacent to the High Line, features direct views to the park. The fourth, fifth and sixth floors comprise the Lower Division the seventh and eighth floors house the middle grades program; and a portion of the eighth floor plus the ninth and tenth floors house the upper grades program. The ninth and tenth floors also house Avenues’ 20,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art athletic and fitness space that includes locker rooms, weight and aerobic training spaces, and a full-sized gymnasium—plus access to the rooftop play.
The design culminates in a beautifully designed rooftop recreation and play space with views to all points on the compass, including the Empire State Building, the Hudson River, Chelsea Piers and the High Line. The school’s roof area has been designed with students in mind: the south roof features a playground for Early Learning Center and Lower Division students.
The ultimate sustainable building solution in cities is to avoid demolishing usable structures in favor of new facilities. Renovating an existing building maintains the investment made in the embodied energy of the original building and avoids the energy necessary to demolish, dispose of the waste, and manufacture and transport materials for new construction. Beginning with a good building and using sound building practices epitomizes one of Avenues’ core values: it visually demonstrates the commitment to provide a sustainable future for all children.