Spence School

  • Second Floor Plan

education & preservation

Spence School

The client, an urban K-12 independent school, acquired a designated landmark townhouse two blocks away from its original building to accommodate their lower school. We began with a program phase based on staff interviews, quantitative and qualitative needs analysis, and research of comparable facilities. Our report established that the new free-standing academic program—15 homerooms plus specialty spaces for library, technology, science, art, music, dance, dining and kitchen, as well as offices, breakout rooms, and a gymnasium—would comprise 36,000 sq. ft., requiring significant expansion of the 24,000 sq. ft. building.

The design process entailed collaboration with a Landmarks Commission reluctant to approve visible additions and a client insistent on achieving a critical mass of educational and support spaces. Neighborhood preservation groups vigorously challenged the School’s program. Approved strategies for expansion included construction of a full fifth floor hidden behind the mansard roof, modest extensions on the rear elevation, and excavation 30’ into bedrock. We reframed the entire structure to achieve column-free classrooms; an 80’ truss supports the building over the gymnasium.

Our scheme for the interior combined adaptation of original architecture to accommodate contemporary educational needs, new fit-outs at a residential scale to satisfy more stringent technical requirements, and new systems throughout.


Spence School


New York, NY

Date Completed



New York Construction Magazine, Best of Awards, 2003

Similar Projects