spence school

New York, NY | 38,000 SF | 2004

The Spence School is one of New York City’s foremost independent K-12 schools for girls. After operating out of a single building on the Upper East Side for over 75 years, the School sought to expand. The trustees purchased a nearby individually-landmarked townhouse serve as the new home of the lower school. PBDW was hired transform the building into a code-compliant education facility with fully contemporary systems while preserving its defining architectural characteristics.

The new building program—15 homerooms plus specialty spaces for library, technology, science, art, music, dance, dining and kitchen and a gymnasium—would comprise 36,000 SF, requiring significant expansion of the 24,000 SF building. We balanced the client’s space needs with those of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission, which was reluctant to approve visible additions. Our design incorporated a full fifth floor addition, which was hidden behind the mansard roof, modest horizontal expansion on the rear elevation, and two new cellar levels excavated 30 feet into bedrock. We reframed the structure to achieve column-free classrooms; an 80-foot truss supports the original building over the gymnasium. The result is a stellar educational facility that will sustain the building’s place in its historic neighborhood for generations to come.


  • New York Construction Magazine, Best of Awards, 2003