East Harlem School at Exodus House

New York, NY
(2010 - 2011)

Taking a cue from the mission of the East Harlem School, to “address the needs of the whole child by promoting intellectual, moral, aesthetic, and kinesthetic development,” the design for the courtyard at the East Harlem School aims to introduce students to a landscape experience not typically found in an urban context. Working within the compositional and structural framework of the existing courtyard, Nelson Byrd Woltz devised a planting plan comprised of vegetation found throughout New York State, including River Birch, Dogwood, and Willow.

The landscape interventions divide the 6,000 square foot, L-shaped courtyard into two zones, maintaining the school’s large gathering space and dedicated basketball courts. A boardwalk connecting these two primary zones floats above a ground plane of ferns and below a grove of honey locust trees. Designated nooks for smaller gatherings are provided around the perimeter of the space with cantilevered benches attached to the faces of existing planters. Oversized magnetic words adhere to the metal planters and can be manipulated into spontaneous poetry by the students, echoing the school’s annual and renowned poetry slam celebration. In the active play area, painted arcs adorn the ground to mimic the parabolic arc of a basketball in mid-air. The intention of these interventions is to encourage a focused exploration among the students, and to support the rigorous curriculum of the East Harlem School.

Collaborators: Peter L. Gluck & Partners, LLC, Plant Specialists LLC