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Gran Kriegel designed a fit-out of raw space to create a new home for Manhattan Star Academy, a special needs school serving children on the autism spectrum. This project, completed in NYC in 2014, provides a very recent example of our experience with school interiors, as well as our commitment to serving each school’s unique student body.
The goal of this project was to provide a welcoming environment that would be conducive to teaching a special population of fifty 5-to-12-year olds on the autism spectrum. The school is housed in a 10,000 s.f. space on the third floor of the Lincoln Square Synagogue building on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
To accomplish a successful and purpose-driven design at Manhattan Star Academy, we conducted extensive staff interviews with teachers and school administrators, whose whose close relationships with the students informed many of our design decisions. Diffused lighting, tactile surfaces, very low-noise ambient levels and acoustic privacy are integrated into the design.
Key elements (designed with Manhattan Star Academy’s ASD children in mind) offer subtle visual support and way-finding elements. Selected surfaces boast rich textures; the wave-like sculpted accent tiles on the walls provide students with a means of orientation by linking circulation paths with a common material, and providing a 3-dimensional pattern stimulating to the touch.
One of the strongest features of the school is the vaulted ceiling in the main corridor, which provides a heightened feeling and functions as a diffusing surface for indirect lighting. Minimizing contrast with diffuse light is an important element for students who are potentially over-sensitive to contrast.
On the planning process:
“We wanted to create a school designed with purpose and consideration for Manhattan STAR’s students. We researched special characteristics, color schemes, lighting, and textures that are known to form a calming atmosphere, reduce visual noise, and help the students focus and learn. Our architects believe in purpose-driven design, not a one-size-fits-all solution; we understand that each place we create will be used by a unique set of individuals, and our goal is always to meet their specific needs.”
— David Kriegel, Managing Partner, Gran Kriegel Architects