This project, for New York City’s Department of Cultural Affairs, transforms a five-story historic former public school to better house four arts groups and one community-service organization. Our design proposed a new five-story addition to create additional public space and provide access to all parts of the building.
The addition includes two new theatres within the building shell, a design studio, rehearsal rooms, shop space, painting studios, two gallery spaces, a lobby and pre-function gathering area, offices for the community center, and an outreach station for the community service group.
The new construction asserts a strong presence with delicacy, using natural daylight and artistic nighttime lighting to balance the heavy masonry of the building. It expresses a physical transformation, one that builds programmatic diversity for public functions and a unifying intersection of performing and visual arts groups.
Key People
Ameet Hiremath
Project Lead
Brendan M. Lee
Project Manager

Deborah Berke Partners


Buro Happold

Structural, MEP/FP, Lighting and Environmental Engineers

Harvey Marshall Berling Associates

Theater and Acoustical Consultant

Langan Engineering & Environmental Services

Civil and Geotechnical Engineers

Front, Inc.

Façade Consultant

C.B.J. Snyder

Original Architect (1894)

Show More

2011 Annual Awards for Excellence in Design

the NYC Public Design Commission

Award of Honor

SARA National Design Awards 2019


Bird's eye photograph of building site and context.
Ground floor plan.
Floor plan.
Axonometric drawing with layers and program split into volumes.
This historic Manhattan building was originally designed in 1894 as one of over 400 New York City public schools by architect C. B. J. Snyder. It was abandoned by the city in the 1970’s, and artists groups such as Performance Space New York, Painting Space 122, and avant-garde theater company Mabou Mines began to occupy the empty building. Known for its rich history of activism and the avant-garde, the building was home to many historic performances, and in 1980 was renownedly used as the set of the movie Fame. By the 1990’s, the space was home not only to painting studios and performance venues, but also the Alliance for Positive Change, a non-profit AIDS activism and advocacy group that included a health clinic.
In line with the building’s long history of creative collaborations and immersive art, the redesign and addition to the 122 Community Arts Center prioritized programmatic flexibility, accommodating a wide variety of activities, exhibitions, and performances, ranging from skateboarding and activism to experimental theater.