New Jersey City University
University Academy Charter High School
Jersey City, NJ
Engaging Students in Their Own Education
As part of its mission to engage with local communities and engage students in their own education, New Jersey City University wanted to create a school preparing underserved students for college. By renovating an abandoned industrial laundry building, a symbol of the area’s past prosperity, into a new school, the university would reconnect the community that had grown around it. The university and KSS Architects opened the project planning and design processes to the community and students, many of whom had ties to the historic building. During a series of visioning sessions and an eight-week Architect-in-Residence program, KSS taught students about architecture and listened to their ideas of a dream school.
Built on a foundation of community ideas, the charter school balances openness and enclosure, providing a sense of ownership and responsibility for the students and helping them find joy in learning. The layout places classrooms with large rolling doors along the building perimeter, and a community living room for students at its center. The central lobby, modeled after an urban street lined with mixed-use spaces, connects the school with a business incubator, a real-life example of the opportunities arising from education. With minimal corridors and a focus on open spaces, the school’s inviting environment allows students to focus on learning.