AVENUES: NEW YORK
EARLY LEARNING CENTER and co.lab
This project is an expansion of Avenues: The World School’s New York Campus. The total project is approximately 65,000 square feet within a new ten-story building consisting of a dedicated entrance lobby, three floors for the Early Learning Center (ELC), and one floor for the upper-school Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Program.
The entrance lobby is over 3,000 square feet to support picking up and dropping off students. Queuing space alongside scooter and stroller parking within the lobby provides parents with a space to wait for their children inside the building and prevents a buildup of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk.
Though this project is an expansion of the main school building, by having a separate, dedicated entrance lobby, ELC students do not have to cross the street or have to walk up or down the block when entering and exiting the school.
This area also houses security, reception to the school, as well as a gallery space for displaying student works. A devoted set of elevators and open stairs allow the school population to move between floors without going through spaces used by other tenants and also ensures the lobby will not become over-crowded during morning arrivals.
The Early Learning Center floors not only meet the needs of young students, but also fulfill the requirements of Avenues’ curriculum, which emphasizes collaboration, interdisciplinary study, and learning through play. On each floor are commons areas and purpose-built specialty spaces including those for art, music, science, and dance.
The teaching kitchen not only allows students to participate in making food, but also serves as a multidisciplinary learning space. Engaging in meal preparation provides children with the opportunity for cultural exploration while exercising practical application of math and basic chemistry.
The outdoor classroom situated next to the science classroom facilitates sensory exploration as touching, feeling, hearing, smelling, and seeing make up the major focus of early-learning science. Additionally, having a designated space for growing plants provides ample opportunities for experiential learning.
The multipurpose room connected to the outdoor recreation space allows the littlest learners to practice using large motor skills both indoors and outdoors. This configuration, which gives the school a controlled outdoor space within an urban setting, is also used for parent events.
The classrooms where students spend the most of their time are paired to support Avenues’ immersion program in which students move between classrooms on alternating days. Additionally, each classroom is connected to an easily accessible bathroom.
Maintaining the slab-to-slab height and the large exterior windows throughout the floors created an inspiring design challenge since most students using this space would be less than four feet tall. The scale and volumes of the ELC spaces needed to feel comfortable and fitting for the users.
The solution was a custom pitched series of acoustic blades designed and installed to showcase height and volume, yet bring the scale of the rooms down appropriately, creating a comfortable and fitting environment for the young learners.
The acoustics in such large volumes with groups of students learning, talking and participating needed attention. Blue cellulose insulation was used to soften the concrete ceiling both acoustically and visually. Wall panels also improved classroom acoustics and minimized noise pollution.
All fixtures and furnishings were designed with the specific ergonomics of 3 to 6-year-olds in mind. Countertops, sinks, and storage units are child-height and made with non-toxic, non-allergenic, and antibacterial materials.
The Co.Lab floor hosts the STEAM program. The design of this floor pulls elements from the lobby and the ELC, yet provides students with an environment that matches the seriousness and ambitiousness of their projects, where they will see themselves as real-world designers, makers, and entrepreneurs.
Conceived as an environment to encourage ideation and experimentation, the Co.Lab supports an interdisciplinary and project-based learning approach.
While Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics program spaces predominate, the entire floor is designed to flexibly accommodate all subject areas.
Industry-leading features include visual and physical connections between areas, niche areas for small group work, retractable walls and mobile storage units that allow for various spatial configurations, offering exploratory instruction areas where upper school students can work with their fellow classmates, a teacher, or individually.
Support spaces for faculty and staff were incorporated into the environment. These auxiliary spaces were not only considered as important to serving the mission of purpose-built design but also as an opportunity to attract great staff and great families to the school.
In an urban environment where high utilization rate of space is necessary, all support spaces were also designed to function as multipurpose areas. All offices and lounges, like classrooms, contain custom millwork over radiators. This not only provides extra desirable seating options like benches and cushions but also serves as a lounging space with natural lighting.