Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
St. Clare’s Parish Center/Early Childhood Development Center in Staten Island, New York by Studio 16 Architecture PLLC collaboration with Stephen Perrella
December 23rd, 2011 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Studio 16 Architecture PLLC collaboration with Stephen Perrella, AIA
A complex of design strategies configures the solution for the Preschool at St.Clare’s. The intent was to establish a sense of openness and free play for a program involving the guidance and education of young children. The proposed architecture endeavors to mediate the imposition of authority over developing youth by calling into question the role that architecture plays in structuring a learning environment. The site of the renovation is within an existing and highly active gymnasium on a church campus. The preschool is situated adjacent to the gymnasium within the same structure.
The use of merely vertical walls was called into question and instead All surfaces are “activated.” All vertical elements in the project are designed to engage and facilitate function and use in the project. Instead of a wall merely dividing two spaces, the active surfaces in this project absorbed function (shelving and storage) and also offered function (display zones) and further, the entire space was understood as being comprised of two horizons: one at 3′-6″ for the youth and the other is at normal head height for adults.
There are two major zones in the space establishing dialectic between the secular and transcendental/abstract. The first zone beings at the front door and ends at the gallery hallway. This zone is the secular area and is codified by the warm colors imbedded in the floor design. This zone denotes bodily and tactile sensory experience. The curvature of the lobby wall and the fragmentation of the art room establish a play of sensory experience to heighten the physical experience of the space. The second zone, which contains the classrooms entails more abstract/transcendent experiences.
These spaces are more cerebral and suitable for religious instruction. The cone takes on the metaphor of an angel, whose influence is physically inscribed in the ceiling design as radiating, concentric circles. the children and instructors enter the classrooms through the angle (cone) and are “watched over” by the radiating circles overhead which organize the lighting scheme. With this strategy there is an “angelic presence” over each of the four classrooms that are all organized by the centrality of the cone.
FORM Variable forms were created in response to the specific criteria of The program. A cone organizes the hallways, a freeform object expresses the art room, a pinched volume for the classrooms, and a double compound curved wall to organize the lobby in relation to the community room. Each space is shaped to express both the horizontal logics but also facilitates activation of the surfaces to be HYPER functional. The details show how millwork and other functions are integrated into the shaped walls.
A color spectrum from Red to Purple organizes the color scheme for the entire design. Instead of selecting a limited range of colors for this program, the color strategy is to provide all colors for the children, inasmuch as within the Catholics teachings, God promised the children a rainbow. The windows on the outer edge of the building establish the color zones that are carried into the space and integrate with the forms. Side emitting fiber optic cables are embedded in the vertical slots of the windows under colored acrylic panels that are affixed to each window edge, denoting the color assignment of each aperture. The acrylics fins are designed with a curve that connotes the combined figure of an adult guardian and a small child as one bonded figure. This relation between the two forms suggests precisely that–a relationship instead of authorial distance.
Whereas the relation between form and media are not literally overlaid in this design there are numerous moments in the overall space with color and form integrate. Each of these moments were unexpected and unpredictable, giving over to the free play of color and form. Color bands might not touch all of the surfaces in the space but they have affect. This play of color and form, in a manner that they are not always commensurate is called Hypersurface. This tactic of doing architecture is a means to express what is possible when normative assumptions about form and color, material and media are put into question.