Grace Church School Gymnasium
New York, NY

Faced with the need for a new gymnasium, Grace Church School, decided to build underground, adjacent to James Renwick’s 165 year old landmark gothic revival church. The design strategy involved the replication of the historic “Gothic Wall” fifteen feet to the west providing space for a new lobby with grand stairs and elevator and natural light via a series of large exterior and interior windows. An educational feature, a noon-mark in the south wall, beams sunlight down into the lobby and demonstrates the apparent motion of the sun. The resulting architecture incorporating the careful use of color and natural, sustainable materials and systems is deliberately asymmetrical and provides a high degree of ambient natural light and orientation to this unique subterranean environment. The existing church portico, outdoor pulpit, street trees, garden and playground all sit on the new underground roof structure. As an underground building with an intensive green roof, it is probably the greenest gymnasium in NYC. The surgical construction required careful underpinning of the adjoining church and loft building and extension under the public sidewalk within 20 feet of the Broadway subway tunnel. Timely approvals were obtained from the local community board, Landmarks, DOT, MTA and DPR. Design and construction was accomplished in 26 months.