SMALL SCHOOL PROTOTYPICAL EXAMPLE: Manhattan Village Academy High School


In 1993, Deborah Meier, Director of the Center for Collaborative Education (a MacArthur Foundation Award grantee in recognition of her many successful teaching innovations), and Mary Butz, Principal of the alternative public high school Manhattan Village Academy, asked architect Beverly Willis and the Architecture Research Institute to design a school floor plan which would support "project teaching" pedagogy.

"Project teaching" pedagogy calls for personalized education in schools small enough to avoid anonymity, and centered in collaborative activity-based "projects' designed to fit the abilities of all level of students. Consequently, instructional space must be ultimately flexible allowing students to shift and regroup frequently, and still provide for lectures and demonstrations when needed, and for use of computers and other technologies.
Ms. Butz and Ms. Meiers had already rejected the "factory model" plan offered by the New York City Board of Education architects which typically featured multiple classrooms off a long corridor. From her experience Ms. Meier had observed that corridors were a place of potential violence. Ms. Meiers and Ms. Butz wanted clustered, flexible space with a minimum of corridor space to fit their concept.
The fully computerized Library-Media Center which provides internet access for student research. The glass window facing into the corridor facilitates the librarian's monitoring of corridor activities. The cafeteria located between two Locus Centers. Note that corridors have been eliminated.
To create a customized plan to fit the pedagogical intent, Ms. Meiers together with the Architecture Research Institute architect visited a number of well-designed schools with innovative ideas. Good ideas gleaned and analyzed from this process led the architect to develop the "Locus" plan - a cluster of classrooms for each grade (100 students), where the teacher has a choice of a variety of spaces and space sizes to fit the personalized approach to student needs.
The "Quad," - a gathering, reading and study area that functions as the hub of the distinct zone allocated each of the four grades. Circling each "Quad" are classrooms of various sizes, some interconnected, and a science laboratory. A typical size classroom designed to connect as desired to the adjacent classroom allowing the teachers to move student project teams between the rooms. Note that this room has computers, as do all the classrooms.
Approximately 70% of MVA's students come from minority families. The architect and client believed that the school's environmental design needed to be student friendly - respectful, calming and serene. The quality of the design also needed to dignify the idea of education and its importance; and support the administrative, teaching and learning processes. Testimony to the success of the educators and the design is the fact that every senior of the first graduating class went on to college.

The school is located on 2 floors of an existing office tower and features a street level entrance separate from that of the building. The interior build-out was designed and constructed within 12 months - on schedule and on budget.

The store front entry to Manhattan Village Academy High School is in a historic, landmarked art deco tower building and was designed in accordance with historic building preservation requirements.







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