NYC Public Schools Universal Physical Education (UPE) Program

New York City

Initiated through the NYC mayor’s office, the Universal Phys-Ed Initiative program targets existing schools that have no original indoor gymnasium but have an extensive outdoor play yard. A portion of the yard has been used to construct a stand-alone multi-purpose gym building, enabling students to have physical activity space year-round under all weather conditions.

The existing schools (MDSA has designed and constructed gyms on 11 different sites) were typically constructed in the early 1900’s and are historically significant, most being registered with the New York State historical preservation office. Accordingly, a prototype design was developed that is contextual with the original masonry buildings, most of which have elaborate detailing at the base, cornices and window surrounds.

The challenge for the prototype for these projects was to find pervasive “themes and modulars” in the existing building envelopes and develop a standard façade system that can permit adjustments in the design to allow for compatibility from site to site.

To provide such an adaptable system MDSA utilizes a structural precast concrete panel system, typically with brick inlays, that permits modulation and modification of the exterior surface with ease to fit existing contexts. The systems are also highly efficient with regard to structural integration, energy efficiency and erection time. All of the projects in the Program have been successfully completed and have found many uses as a large open high-bay space that did not previously exist on the campus.

Location map