Ain't she sweet

James
Wednesday 24 Feb 2010

Like its namesake, the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts never fails to make an impression

Frank Sinatra School of the Arts creates a powerful architectural identity for this 1,000-student public high school for the visual and performing arts, The design celebrates the school’s arts curriculum while connecting it visually, programmatically and spatially to the surrounding community and enhances the education process by providing unconventional spaces for an urban school.

The 147,000 sq ft building, which occupies a full block on 35th Avenue in Astoria, Queens, directly across the street from Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image, reinforces the neighbourhood’s connection to its cultural and civic buildings and enlivens the street with performance events open to the public.

At the heart of the five-storey structure is the 800-seat, state-of-the-art Tony Bennett Concert Hall, with its curved form visible from the street through an open and active double-height lobby. A perimeter frame of daylit classrooms and studios open onto the central atrium space on each floor. This shared internal space encourages the interaction of students and faculty of different disciplines and provides a venue for performance and the display of student work. This primary central space underscores the defining characteristic of the school environment; engaging and exploring the arts.

The glass-enclosed studios for dance, music and visual arts located directly above the lobby contrast with the masonry facades on the east and west facades of the building, providing expansive views into the rehearsal and studio spaces for passers-by, while providing students with views of the surrounding context and drawing the city inside.

The building culminates in a rooftop landscape courtyard that provides a unique and unexpected outdoor performance stage with the city skyline as its backdrop. With the addition of its three theaters, studios for art, instrumental and vocal music and dance, galleries, media center, gymnasium, the building conveys a sense of openness and welcome to the urban context, the overall design celebrates performance and a vibrant community of the arts within the building, while forging strong connections to the surrounding neighbourhood.

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