New York School Unveils Rooftop Expansion and Athletic Center

By Roxanne Squires

NEW YORK — In New York City’s Greenwich Village, a brand-new rooftop expansion and athletic center for Grace Church School represents how urban institutions can utilize every inch of space even when it’s seemingly not there.

Murphy Burnham & Buttrick Architects (MBB) announced the recent opening of Grace Church School’s new athletic center; adding a new top floor structure to create a double-height gymnasium.

The school could not build outward — so the designers decided that they would build upward instead. Although building on top isn’t optimal, the team was able to design the facility to be mindfully integrated within the existing facility and built to harmonize with its surrounding neighborhood.

The flexible, 14,000-square-foot, fourth-story addition provides various spaces filled with sunlight — accommodating different physical activities and academic uses.

Although the project is focused on a large, multipurpose gymnasium and new gathering areas—the expansion also includes offices, classrooms, locker rooms and storage facilities as well as a new fitness center and golf simulator room. 

Students in grades 7-12 are able to access the gym from an extended stairwell approaching a large skylight, flooding light into the core of the building. The gym’s soaring ceilings include skylights built with anti-glare Solera panels.

At the top of the stairwell, a new student commons leads into the main gym space and provides space for informal gatherings.

The regulation-sized gymnasium can be divided into two spaces — allowing the space to be used for physical activities as well as performance and gathering space.

The new expansion also includes an elegant, curved-steel structure, and concrete slabs set on floor jacks that are able to isolate acoustics, reducing vibration and sound transmission to classrooms below.

The new facility’s material palette of glass, wood, and steel structural elements also complements Grace Church School’s original building and interiors.

The result is a highly functional and efficient space for students with a warm and inviting atmosphere. The new gym opened September 2018.