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


56 East 93rd Street, New York, New York

Date Completed



New York Construction Magazine, Best of Awards, 2003

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