The Urban Assembly New York Harbor School relocated to Governors Island in September 2010 and became one of the first non-military tenants since the transfer of the island to New York. Originally built as a barracks in 1940, the building was converted to a school with a complete renovation, including all MEP systems as well as interior construction. Situating a COST PER SQ FT$486.00FEATURED IN2013 Educational InteriorsINTERIOR CATEGORYCommon Areas high school on a remote island away from the existing infrastructure of New York City provides a pastoral setting with direct access to the harbor and a ferry ride instead of a subway to school.
The mission of the school is to integrate New York City’s unique maritime resources, culture and history into an enhanced and challenging high school curriculum. Along with the standard classrooms and administration spaces for the 435-seat school, the building includes marine science classrooms where students raise lobsters, oysters and tilapia; marine technology shops offer a space for boat building.
Common areas serve to move, gather and advance the school’s curriculum by engaging students’ interests. Students arrive at school crossing the open courtyard, which boasts a student-grown organic vegetable garden and basketball court. A giant New York harbor estuarium stocked with native species fills the entrance lobby. Not only an exhibit for observation, the tank is built with a glass-back panel to enable students to understand the engineering involved in keeping the system and living organisms alive. As part of the school’s hands-on approach to learning, students eventually will take over its care and maintenance.
The existing verandas that extend along the upper floors on either side of the main entrance were preserved, not as programmed space, but as common areas allowing direct access to the exterior, blurring the edge between inside and out. The narrow footprint of the existing structure led to a single-loaded corridor adjacent to the verandas. Its filtered sunlight brightens the corridors, where a flowing floor pattern and rippled wall surfaces remind students of the harbor beyond.