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Pratt Institute School of Architecture

Brooklyn, NY

The Pratt Institute School of Architecture at Higgins Hall, a historic landmark, was almost consumed by a four-alarm fire which destroyed the central wing, gutted the north wing to its masonry shell and laid bare the building’s six previous constructions. The renovated school reveals the poetic within the ruin, creating a contemporary workplace for architecture furthering the School’s mission and purpose.

Previously hidden arched openings, timber lintels, cast iron columns, curved masonry and 100-year-old scars from an earlier fire were incorporated in the renovation. New openings in the old masonry’s bearing walls create light filled studio spaces while double-height spaces created by the fire become review spaces with gallery balconies. With the tectonics of the original structure and the new interventions clearly revealed, the building participates in the teaching of architecture. The deteriorating exterior of the south wing was reconstructed using primarily salvaged material and its roof profile reconfigured to allow new operable windows, clerestories and skylights. A cantilevered blackened steel stair completes the original ornate cast iron stair with drama. The new construction of the central wing creates an entryway and lobby for the school. With a series of ramps and stairs and open studios, it negotiates significant floor height differences between the two other wings. Its mechanical systems are located in the north wing for maximum light and openness.

The complete reconstruction project spanned ten years. A phasing strategy helped surpass the client’s desired schedule by immediately minimizing the need for swing spaces and allowing continual programming on fully functional floors while ongoing work proceeded.

AIA National Honor Award, AIA NYS Award of Excellence, AIA NYC Citation for Adaptive Re-use, Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the NY Landmarks Conservancy, SCUP/AIA-CAE Honor Award for Excellence in Campus Architecture, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Building Brooklyn Award, Lumen Lighting Design Award, Interiors Magazine Design Award Educational Facility


Center Wing designed in collaboration with Steven Holl Architects
South Wing interior is a LEED-CI Pilot Project
photography © David Sundberg/Esto