Bronx Charter School
for the Arts
N.Y.C. Board of Education
950 Longfellow Avenue
Using arts education as a “catalyst for the academic and social success” is a central mission of Bronx Charter School for the Arts. The school’s façade has child-friendly vertical color bands of glazed brick. For the 300 students served at this public elementary school, the building’s vibrant exterior sets the tone for a creative K-5 learning environment within.
Bronx Charter is located just east of the Sheridan Expressway on a dead-end street surrounded by auto-shops, small factories, and warehouses in the industrial Hunts Point neighborhood. The site of the present school was originally the Zion Kosher Salami factory, and then became a warehouse for smoked salmon and other products requiring large, walk-in, insulated freezers and roof compressors. XYZ Architecture had the challenge of taking an unlikely 23,000 square foot building and transforming it into a school of 30,000 square feet. They worked closely with educators, parents and community members in the participatory design process.
Materials and energy costs were saved by reusing the façade of the original building and adding a new insulated brick layer. The placement of rooftop units for fresh air circulation and heat, gave more vertical height to the school interior which uses an open plan design. The greatest concern, however, was devoted to bringing natural light into an otherwise dark building facing a rear wall with no external windows. To solve this problem, the architects installed six shed roof clerestory skylights facing north and used large windows to face the street. The interior of this building is thus flooded with natural light, further enhanced by the use of white and gray surfaces. A multipurpose room, below street level, is used as a lunchroom, performance space, and meeting place for the community.
The Bronx Charter School building is recognized in architectural circles. In 2005, its architects were awarded: the AIA New York Chapter Honor Award for Architecture; the AIA Boston Society of Architects’ Honor Award for Design Excellence in K-12 Educational Facilities; a School Construction News’ Design Share Citation; and the Oculus Design Awards: Architecture Honor. Finally in 2005, Bronx Charter School was chosen as just one of five schools nationally to be awarded a Creative Ticket National School of Distinction by the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.
Janet Butler Munch