WXY design bright future for the kids of New York
The design of the Bronx Charter School for the Arts reflects the school’s founding principle that arts education is critical to human development and learning. Colour, space, and natural light create a direct physical connection with the content and aims of the curriculum. Through its adaptive re-use of an old factory, the school plays a role in the transformation of its industrial Hunts Point neighborhood. To achieve a healthy environment that enhances the learning spaces despite budget and site restrictions, a simple and innovative approach was needed. A design process that involved community and future teaching staff resulted in a unique, light-filled space that dovetails with Bronx Art’s educational mission.
The use of a complex rhythm of brightly colored glazed brick for the façade contributes a strong street presence, called for by the school’s mission to promote community participation through the arts. Wide openings and minimal division of continuous space serve the founders’ goal of using the built environment to encourage openness and communication. The classrooms are conceived of as studio spaces. White and grey surfaces predominate to make the most of the north light, with colour stripes providing orientation to each of the classroom bays back towards the street and the shared arts spaces along the façade.
Many low-cost sustainable features were incorporated and the building far exceeds the minimum standards for air changes, filtered fresh air and in particular natural light both for productivity and to reduce lighting loads. The decision to re-use the façade structure, adding a new insulated brick layer, brought energy and material savings. Many of the materials used are of minimum 80% recycled content and the building was commissioned. The long rows of North-facing skylights with insulated clerestories ensured natural light into the classrooms while limiting heat gain. The skylights bring ethereal natural light into the deep interior spaces of this former cold storage warehouse throughout the day.