Early-Childhood Education: It Does Take a Village

It really does take a village.

My 4-year-old son guides an overflowing spoonful of scrambled eggs from plate to mouth. Lean over, I remind him. Half ends up on target, the rest plopping to the floor. Good job. Please clean up the mess, I encourage. Hopping off his chair, he scoops up the stray bit of egg and pops it in his mouth with a proud grin. Dissatisfied with his attempt with the spoon, he reaches across the table, and crams a final fistful of breakfast into his mouth and runs off to play as I call out, please wash your hands. And so it goes, day in, day out, year after year – patience, encouragement, patience, encouragement, love, and patience.

Articles in the New York Times and elsewhere about the success of New York City’s Universal Pre-K reflect the millions of working parents in similar patient, loving and sometimes exhausted shoes as my own. The ages from three to six are a “magically” profound time when physical development and social organization place them on the cusp between dependent toddlers and self-sufficient individuals. Will my child put his shoes on the right feet today? Will she play alone or with new friends? Will he advance his base ten counting from ten units to hundred units?  This period of a child’s rapid evolution requires teachers to be specially trained and focused on daily life skills. This is very different from caring for infants or teaching upper elementary students. Likewise, the design requirements for facilities that support children at this age – and their teachers – are also specialized. Dedicated toilet rooms, additional changing space, lower sink and counter heights, available places to nap.… The list goes on.

As MGA&D begins designing our 7th public school for the NYC School Construction Authority in 11 years, it is glaringly evident that the demand for well-designed new schools for America’s next generation is rapidly accelerating.

Successful environments for early-childhood education are a fine balance between specificity and flexibility — specificity in accommodating the particular needs of toddlers and teachers, and flexibility that allows and even encourages a range of simultaneous activities. Classrooms should have ample controlled natural light, views to the outside, good acoustics, storage and shelving. There should be enough space to create smaller, distinct rooms within the room, with furniture and finishes appropriate for the intended uses, such as easily cleaned surfaces for eating areas and soft flooring for story time.

Although they contain a variety of features, these environments should not be over-complicated. Instead, they should be intuitive and simple to use so that teachers spend their time focused on the children and not on re-arranging the room.

As MGA&D begins designing our seventh new capacity project for the New York City School Construction Authority in 11 years, it is glaringly evident that the demand for well-designed new schools for America’s next generation is rapidly accelerating. Besides the introduction of  Pre-K programs and improvements to special ed, the sheer number of students needing education in appropriate class sizes keeps growing. New York City, for example, has more demand than sites for new schools or expansion of existing ones. As a firm, we have eagerly been involved in school design for decades, leading us to design public, charter and private educational facilities in suburban, urban and hyper-urban environments.

For both toddlers and teachers, successful environments for early-childhood education are a fine balance between specificity and flexibility.

While the configuration of those varied sites uniquely affects the architectural approach, the design mandate is simple and clear: create a SAFE place that encourages friendship, fosters independence and curiosity, and supports personal growth. When school buildings and grounds are successful, they can be used as tools that support both teaching and learning. Smaller classes undoubtedly allow more teacher focus on the individual. However, 20-30 students per teacher is the norm in public school planning. In hyper-urban settings, we are further challenged to transform the potential chaos of a dense environmental into an orderly and yet exciting place to learn. Two fundamental design factors contribute to our success. One is creating clearly organized and efficient floor plans and building sections that improve supervision and wayfinding. The other is to give the environment a character that is conducive to both learning and enjoyment –using daylight, acoustics and color.  These are simple devices that speak to human factors.

Human factors are more and more important for social development as we hurtle into the era of mobile technology. Technology has dramatically transformed the way we learn and communicate as a society. However, school is about more than curriculum and test scores, especially in the age of two-income families and single parenthood. It’s about connecting with our community and shaping our children’s formative years socially, emotionally and intellectually.  Teachers support children. Well-designed school facilities support the teachers and together we build communities.

Yes, it really does take a village.


Kathy Dy

Learn MORE about Kathy Dy, RA – Principal, Architecture

Cooper Hewitt 2018 Teen Design Fair

Rob Van Varick, Principal of Design, Insights & Strategy and Jessica Hurwit, Senior Product Designer will be participating in the Teen Design Fair at the Cooper Hewitt next month. The aim of the Teen Design Fair is to make design and design industries understandable and accessible to high school students. By interacting with professional designers, students learn about different design disciplines and receive guidance on how to pursue futures in design. The event allows our designers to share their knowledge and experience acquired during their careers. Groups of students with varying levels of exposure to design will gain a better understanding through exposure and self-explored questions.

Mentoring is one of the core missions at Michael Graves that was instilled by our founder. Our continued realtionship with the Cooper Hewitt allows us to spread our mission to students about to embark on their journey of building a career. The awareness of opportunities for careers in design is limited by exposure and core curriculum. Michael Graves Architecture & Design believes that the education of design and design thinking is one the strongest assets you can give our youth.

For more information about this event visit the Cooper Hewit website here.

Date & Location

Teen Design Fair
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Arthur Ross Terrace and Garden
Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
2 East 91st Street
New York, NY 10128

Back to School at Don Bosco Preparatory High School

Welcome back to school! It has been one successful year since students at Don Bosco Preparatory High School began using the new facilities designed by MGA&D. The new buildings and landscape transformed the center of the campus from a parking lot to a collegiate-style quadrangle defined by existing and new buildings on all sides. It took several steps to get there, starting with a comprehensive master plan for the 35-acre campus.

Aerial view of campus before construction (left) and proposed masterplan (right)

Because we started with a comprehensive phased master plan for the campus, our building strategy produced the greatest immediate impact and value, and a clear framework for the future.

Don Bosco knew that they needed to expand dining facilities and classrooms housed in Immaculata Hall, an older building in need of renovation. Since renovating a crowded occupied building would impossibly compromise the school’s operations, MGA&D proposed a campus-wide master plan that concluded a new building produced the best economies and efficiencies Phase 1 interventions within the central 11 acres resolved outstanding issues with vehicular circulation, wetlands, and stormwater detention. Relocating parking was key to clearing the way for a new building site.

20-year master plan

The 20-year master plan sustainably balances buildings, site circulation and landscape. Wetlands preservation, stormwater management and infrastructure improvements complement the revised vehicular patterns and provide good stewardship of the land.

Savio Hall, a new 32,000-SF building, with new dining and kitchen facilities and 2 upper levels containing 16 well-lit classrooms, completes the fourth side of the academic campus and defines the new quadrangle. Third floor terraces overlook the campus and surrounding hills.

Savio Hall (left) and St. John’s Hall viewed from Savio Hall (right)

The form and articulation of Savio Hall draws on the traditional architecture of the adjacent 1915 landmark St. John’s Hall, balancing the rhythmic forms and proportion and scale of the brick arches with strong sense of transparency from the large expanse of glass. The glazed double-height dining hall acts as an extension of the outdoor quadrangle, enlivening both spaces.

Savio Hall detail

Savio Hall brickwork (left) and dining hall (right)

Replacing a former parking lot, the new quadrangle visually and physically unites the central buildings and becomes a hub for student activity. Its formal axis connects the dining hall in Savio Hall, the Founder’s statue and the new Sacred Heart Chapel, providing a sense of community and purpose.

View from the dining hall to the quadrangle (left) and view of the quadrangle toward the chapel (right)

Abundant natural light in classrooms and views of nature are known to enhance students’ ability to learn and their sense of wellbeing at school.

Upper level classroom

Sacred Heart Chapel is a 1,500-SF addition to Immaculata Hall on axis with the Founder’s statue and Savio Hall. Inspired by the scale and form of Tuscan hillside chapels, it rests on a stepped plinth and raised linear plaza for social gatherings.

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Drone footage of Sacred Heart Chapel

The large colored glass windows and crosses clearly define the chapel’s purpose at the heart of the campus and the school’s mission.

Chapel interior

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Don Bosco Preparatory High School Construction Timelapse Video

Throughout the process, we worked with the Board of Directors on fundraising strategies and provided branding, renderings, a fly-by video, a campaign marketing video, and donor recognition. Because of the thoroughness of our planning and concept design, and our sophisticated digital modeling tools, our renderings are often hard to distinguish from the finished building. This is powerful for fundraising, allowing our clients and their donors to visualize the results.

[…] Our renderings are often hard to distinguish from the finished building. This is powerful for fundraising, allowing our clients and their donors to visualize the results.

Savio Hall rendering (left) and built (right)

With the initial transformation of the campus complete, future phases will include renovations to the existing buildings and eventually, a new fieldhouse for the school’s distinguished athletics programs.

Cooper Hewitt Education Department Learning Lab: Michael Graves Collections

As designers, we are empowered by knowledge of the world around us and the people that inhabit it. At MGA&D we believe that persistent learning is one of the many practices that help us create enduring, humanistic design solutions. That is why we are thrilled to have been asked to contribute content to the Smithsonian Learning Lab, a new digital platform that is allowing educators to utilize online resources for instruction and professional development in a whole new way.

Launched in 2016, the Smithsonian Learning Lab is a collection of more than two million digital resources including images, recordings, videos, and texts from across the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, 9 major research centers, the National Zoo, and more. The Learning Lab offers free access to all these diverse resources combined with tools that allow users to organize, supplement, and personalize the assets to facilitate learning in a non-traditional approach.

MGA&D has contributed two collections to the platform to provide its users some insights into how we approach design from start to finish. The first collection focuses on the history and foundation of our company, and our unique perspective as a truly multidisciplinary practice. The second collection is a case study on the Prime TC, which takes a full dive into the project from conception through production, and shows some of the tools we use to transform research findings into thoughtful, fully developed designs.

Here you can find our collections and explore the rest of the Smithsonian Learning Lab.

About Cooper Hewitt:

Founded in 1897, Cooper Hewitt is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to historic and contemporary design. Housed in the renovated and restored Carnegie Mansion, Cooper Hewitt showcases one of the most diverse and comprehensive collections of design works in existence. The museum’s restoration, modernization and expansion has won numerous awards and honors, including a Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy, a Gold Pencil Award for Best in Responsive Environments and LEED Silver certification. Cooper Hewitt offers a full range of interactive capabilities and immersive creative experiences, including the Cooper Hewitt Pen that allows visitors to “collect” and “save” objects from around the galleries, the opportunity to explore the collection digitally on ultra-high-definition touch-screen tables, and draw and project their own wallpaper designs in the Immersion Room.

For further information, call (212) 849-8400, visit Cooper Hewitt’s website here.

On the Boards and In Construction

From a collection of sleep hygiene products for the consumer market to a number of distinctive Michael Graves Architecture & Design projects are on the boards, in design, and under construction for 2017.

MGA&D is busier than ever, working on creative, design solutions in the consumer products, federal, workplace, hospitality, education and master planning sectors.

The following is an overview of projects, highlights and features that reinforce MGA&D’s commitment to human-centric elements that focus on design excellence and innovation.

We’re always working on new projects and equally excited to share our progress. We will periodically be updating individual project pages as each project comes closer to completion.

St. Regis Hotel – Cairo, Egypt

Six-star St. Regis Hotel, Cairo Egypt

The six-star St. Regis Hotel, a 2.1 million-square-foot mixed-use development currently under construction features 286 luxurious guest rooms, several specialty restaurants, a nightclub and full-service banquet and event facilities outfitted with ballrooms, meeting spaces, and associated support spaces.


MGA&D is in a design partnership with Marpac, the world’s leader in high-quality sound conditioners. Marpac’s products have been improving people’s sleep since 1962. With today’s understanding of the importance of quality sleep, Marpac is poised to cement its position as the undisputed leader in “sleep hygiene.” MGA&D’s product design team has been working with Marpac’s product development and marketing teams on a full refresh of its collection of sound machines. We’ve designed a family of products that offer a full spectrum of features and benefits. We’ve connected the collection through an original design language that is beautiful, communicates the purpose of each item, is a pleasure to experience and is unique to Marpac.

Don Bosco Preparatory Savio Hall

Don Bosco Preparatory Multi-Purpose Classroom Building

To be completed in the Fall of 2017, this classroom and student dining building at Don Bosco Prep will house 16 classrooms in addition to a cafeteria, kitchen, and support spaces. This project is part of a larger master plan which includes improvement plans to the campus, site circulation, parking, storm water management, wetlands preservation, landscaping, and a spectacular Chapel of the Sacred Heart. The construction and improvement plans will transform Don Bosco’s 35-acre campus, offering students a more collegiate-campus experience.



MGA&D designed a collection of cookware called Teorema for the highly regarded Italian cookware company TVS. As we began our design process, we thought about the distinctive elements of a piece of cookware (the body, the handle, the lid) and how we could create a design where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. To start, we thought about usability and how so much comes down to the handle. The unique profile of the Teorema handle forms a cradle that gives the hand a natural resting spot for better grip and balance. The same cradle can hold cooking utensils, keeping sticky food from transferring to the surface of the stovetop and counter. For the cookware bodies, we designed simple, yet eye-catching curves to enrich the cooking experience. The quality connection of the body to the handle is robust and secure. The pronounced single rivet connection draws its positive proportion from the negative punched-out hanging hole featured on the long handles of the sauté, fry, and casserole pans, as well as the wok. The sculpted, tempered glass lids make it easy to see the cooking process while the generous stainless steel lid handles are easy to grip, even with oven mitts, and feature the same cradle that holds cooking utensils.

Public School 24 – Queens, NY

PS24 Queens

PS42Q includes an approximately 90,000 GSF addition (5 floors plus cellar) to an existing 80,000 GSF existing school originally built in 1929. New capacity added is 692 total students with a combined building total to be roughly 1500 students when complete. The addition includes a new main entrance, student dining, dance studio, science, art, and music classrooms as well as general Pre-K through 5 and special education classrooms. A large rooftop playground is also included to maximize outdoor recreation spaces for students.


MGA&D just started two new product design projects in the kitchen organization category for our long time client Polder Products, a leading brand supplying consumers with well-designed, high-quality home goods.

Private Residence – Monmouth Beach, NJ

Bill Meyer's Private Residence, Monmouth Beach, NJ

This residential ‘forever home’ located in Monmouth Beach, NJ was designed for its residents to comfortably age-in-place. The house is located in a flood plain and is replacing the previous building damaged by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. This 6,000 SF home not only includes beachy colors and playful elements but is also smartly designed to be both sustainable and resilient. The palette is whimsical, light and airy, making the home contextual to its location along the coast.

The Benacerraf House Restoration

Benaceraff House Restoration

The original 1960s Benacerraf addition designed by Michael Graves has been celebrated by architects and scholars around the world for decades as a seminal moment in architecture. This residential addition is being restored to its original condition with some minor modernization updates to the interior spaces. The project is set to be completed this Spring.

Peck Slip School: Sustainable Transformation

“Our design team worked with the New York State Historic Preservation Office to establish guidelines for the project that respected the context of South Street Seaport and the aesthetics of the former postal facility while also recognizing that the new school should have its own distinct character.” – Thomas Rowe, AIA, Design Principal

PRISM.pub, a new online journal, resource and cooperative effort to further sustainable building practices recently published an article on Public School 343 – The Peck Slip School, authored by Principal Thomas Rowe.

The project, the conversion of an existing U.S. Postal Service Station located within Manhattan’s South Street Seaport Historic District embodies PRISM’s mission: to disseminate information on the sustainable built environment and to further the cause of sustainable building. PRISM believes that sharing sustainable success stories will help achieve a sustainable future while ensuring the preservation of the past.

Public School 343 Manhattan

Commissioned by the New York City School Construction Authority (NYCSCA), the goal of the project was to re-use an existing 1950’s post office facility to help fill the need for school capacity in a rapidly emerging residential community. Located on Peck Slip between Pearl Street and Water Street, the new facility accommodates a capacity of 712 students in grades Pre-K through 5. The project encompasses approximately 97,000 SF in seven floors above grade. The project scope includes a 69,300 SF renovation and adaptive re-use of the four existing floors of the building and a 27,700 SF vertical addition of three new floors.

Click here to read the full article.

MGA&D’s 3rd Project for NYC School Construction Authority Opens

MGA&D is delighted to announce the September 9, 2015 opening of its third New York City public school for the NYCSCA. PS343, officially named the “Peck Slip School”, is located in lower Manhattan, adjacent to the Brooklyn Bridge and within the South Street Seaport Historic District. The Peck Slip School was commissioned to help satisfy a growing need for additional neighborhood schools in lower Manhattan that is being prompted by a significant increase in housing in the surrounding area.

The project site was an active dock during the Revolutionary War. Peck’s Slip served as a temporary hideout for George Washington and his troops in April 1776 when they fled from the British following the Battle of Long Island.

The project scope included the adaptive reuse of a four-story 1950 US Postal Service Station building pre-existing on the site as well as a three story vertical addition supported by the existing structure below. An extensive feasibility study was initially performed by the Graves-MMA Joint Venture Design Team to determine the maximum amount of classroom space that could be supported by the pre-existing concrete post office structure.

Along with this extensive structural investigation and in situ foundation load testing, other unique critical path schedule items such as Historic District approvals, archaeological requirements, and coordination with a major ongoing NYC infrastructure project were researched at length to determine if the proposed project could be delivered in a very short, finite time period.

Existing Post Office Building
Existing Post Office Building

Peck Slip School Under Construction

The facades on the existing structure are intended to recall those of the Postal Station modified to accommodate the school’s layout and to maximize natural light to the classrooms. The large strip windows are fitted with horizontal solar shades to control the south light and glare. This element is continued on the upper facades visually tying the aluminum clad vertical addition to the lower levels. The white painted steel truss and stainless steel mesh enclosing the play roof provides a light [physically as well as visually]cap to the building reminiscent of the bridges over the East River as well as the sailing ships at the South Street Seaport.

A sixth floor rooftop playground provides much needed outdoor play space

Featuring five floors of classroom and support space, the new school is designed to serve 760 students in grades Pre-K through 5. A fifth floor Gymatorium will support not only the physical education and assembly needs of the students, but also act as a new location available for community events after hours. A sixth floor rooftop playground provides much needed outdoor play space and also offers Peck Slip School students panoramic views of the many historically and culturally significant monuments that surround them.

MGA&D congratulates the students, families, teachers, and staff of the Peck Slip School on their new home.

Read about the community response here:  http://www.tribecatrib.com/content/parents-cheer-opening-seaports-new-peck-slip-school