Client: PS340M - New York City School Construction Authority / Public Art for Public Schools
Location: New York, NY, United States
Completion date: 2014
Artwork budget: $50,000
Michael Szerbaty, AIA
MD Szerbaty Associates Architecture
Odili Donald Odita
Public Art Agent
Tania Duvergne, Director
Public Art for Public Schools
Developed by the NYC School Construction Authority (SCA) and designed by MDSzerbaty Associates (MDSA), PS 340 is located on the corner of 6th Avenue at 17th Street in Chelsea. The 95,000-square-foot project involved converting the lower six floors and cellar to serve the needs of more than 500 pre-K through 5th-grade students. The focal point is a central stair that begins in the lobby adjacent to a large graphic by the artist Odili Donald Odita.
Public Art for Public Schools, a unit within the New York City School Construction Authority, oversees the commissioning of site-specific, permanent artwork as part of new school construction projects. Our goal is to integrate artworks within the surrounding architecture designed by MD Szerbaty Associates Architecture in a manner that compliments and highlights one within the context of the other. To ensure this, project architects are brought in at the beginning of the commissioning process both in the selection of artwork locations and as voting members of the artist selection panel. Finalists attend an artist orientation meeting where architects present the building plans and renderings from which to create their proposals. The artist selection is scheduled so that an artist is ideally on board midway through the building design allowing time for collaborative exchanges and development. Elements including architectural finishes, colors, material selections, structural support and lighting are coordinated and incorporated in final bid drawings. Our efforts to establish these early exchanges and dialogue between artist and architect are fundamental to achieving a successful synergy and balance between artwork and architecture.
The artist, Odili Donald Odita, was commissioned by the NYC School Construction Authority, Public Art for Public Schools program, in collaboration with the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Percent for Art program. The artist’s collaborative process with what would be numerous parties began at the first stages of his engagement with this project, starting with initial meetings with the architects, MD Szerbaty Associates Architecture, Public Art for Public Schools, architecture and engineering representatives and Cultural Affairs. Drawings, plans, elevations, measurements, finishes, and samples were provided to the artist and discussed over various meetings. As Odita’s creative process is entirely shaped by the specificities of his work site, as much information as was possible about the space where his piece would be located was critical. His final design took into consideration the dimensions, colors, forms, lines, shapes, materials, of all the surrounding space, as well as what can be seen of the exterior of the school. Adjustments were made to some the building design elements when feasible, while the artist worked to successfully incorporate fixed items such as the window and vents. Solutions were found together as a team to determine the ideal final artwork design.
The project includes 21 new classrooms, instructional areas for art, music, and science, a multi-purpose room, a double-height library, and a lecture hall/auditorium that’s also available for community use. A rooftop play area is located on the second floor at the inner court of the building, and the original loading dock is now a dance studio.