Cooke is a non-profit organization that provides special education services and a school for students ages 5-21 with mild-to-moderate cognitive or developmental disabilities and severe language-based learning disabilities. Their mission to teach independence and self-sufficiency is deeply embedded into their curriculum. Cooke is comprised of the Cooke School and Cooke Institute, currently located in multiple, separate facilities across New York City. Cooke hired PBDW to design a new 69,000 SF facility in East Harlem that will consolidate the Grammar School, Academy High School, and Institute.
PBDW was faced with the challenge of combining the Grammar School and Academy High School into a single facility, while maintaining each school’s separate identity and circulation. The lower floors of the building house the larger, shared spaces including the gymnasium, cafeteria, and creative arts classroom, as well as administrative offices for the Cooke Institute. The building’s upper floors are divided in half, creating separate spaces for each school. The program includes separate academic and specialty classrooms, therapy and counseling spaces, as well as individual stairs for each school.
Located within a large superblock campus, the new facility will be a freestanding building visible on all sides – a rare condition within Manhattan. The building’s front façade features a ribbon of channel glass along the first floor, which creates a bright presence along the street edge, while offering privacy for the students and faculty within. The upper floors are clad with a terracotta rain screen system where individual bays articulate the classroom spaces. The three remaining façades are simplified versions of the front, with flattened window bays and insulated metal panels.