Not Your Father’s Public School

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The virtual walls of the building that will house P.S. 59 and Art and Design High School have gone up, and real ones are not far behind.

Designers from Skidmore Owings & Merrill, known for the new Avery Fisher Hall and the Condé Nast cafeteria, said the building"s steel infrastructure will go up by November, and the façade will follow by July 2011. If all goes as planned, the new facility will open in September 2012, according to Jamie Smarr, a representative from the Department of Education who attended Community Board 8"s April 26 youth and education committee meeting.

“We are confident we can make that, Smarr said.

A new structure to house P.S. 59 and Art and Design High School will rise on this site on East 57th Street and Second Avenue. Photo by Andrew Schwartz

The building, on East 57th Street and Second Avenue, will eventually house the two separate schools, a Whole Foods on the lower level and a residential tower. The structure will replace the old P.S. 59, which was demolished, with students being temporarily relocated to the Annex of the Manhattan Eye, Ear and Throat Hospital during construction. The new building will follow the footprint of both the primary school and the still functioning high school.

The building"s façade will feature sleek, clean-lined layers of windows that frame different classrooms, and a 3,000-square-foot gated plaza where elementary kids can gather and queue.

But the interior is what will really make former public school students jealous. Forget the dreary classrooms and dark, concrete hallways of yore's this design focuses on light, space and creating an environment to nurture students.

While the elementary and high school share the building, they are completely separate, except for sharing a fully equipped auditorium, which has theatrical rigging, a high tech sound system and 500 seats. There are two entrances, two gyms and two cafeterias, each designed around its respective student population.

P.S. 59, which will seat 730 students, will have a 1,500-square-foot lobby, hallways lined with corkboard, a 3,000-square-foot library, a light and airy gym and a 4,000-square-foot cafeteria done in soft green and yellow hues.

The 1,400-seat high school will have a covered gym on the 11th floor, along with a 1,000-square-foot gallery, which overlooks East 57th Street and will be used for a curating class and show space. Because the high school is focused on art and design, creations of famed alumni will be scattered throughout the building. Students will find inspiration in works by Art Spiegelman in the cafeteria, a “One Way & Another floor piece by Lawrence Weiner in the lobby, and images by Marc Jacobs and Calvin Klein on hallway floors. 


East Side Middle School Update

Good news for parents and students of East Side Middle School: It"s done. Well, mostly. Furniture and phone lines are being installed this week, all electrical issues have been resolved and administrators are gearing up to welcome students and staff to their new home.

“The teachers, faculty and students are ready to move next month, said Jamie Smarr, a representative from the Department of Education. “I think we will just move them over a weekend.

The school is currently occupying classroom and administrative space in P.S. 158, on York Avenue between East 77th and 78th streets.