270 West 70th Street between Amsterdam and West End Avenue (Public School 199)
Type: Public School
Architect: Stone, Edward Durell
Developer/Owner/Builder: New York City
NYC Landmarks Designation: Not Landmarked
Primary Style: Modern
Primary Facade: Brick, Glass
Wish List: Current Wish List
Built in 1960 by Edward Durrel Stone, Public School 199 is emblematic of the progression of stylistic tendencies in the opus of an idealized architect. Initially enamored of the International Style, thanks to some years abroad, Stone’s architectural aesthetic changed dramatically in the early 1950s. A “move toward elegance” (some credit to his second wife, Italian Maria Elena Torchio) was seen in his work. As Stone put it, “More marble floors, gold accents, fountains, lagoons, and courtyards crept into my designs.” Stone parted with the International Style, and began creating buildings with sleek, classical elements and elaborate concrete grillwork. All of these elegant characteristics and luxurious materials would become synonymous with the architecture of Edward Durell Stone by 1960, when he received the commission for a new public elementary school on the Upper West Side
P.S. 199 displays many of the same characteristics of Stone’s new aesthetic. The 166 identical white brick piers that surround the rectangular structure are reminiscent of marble columns or a grand colonnade, and the concentric squares inscribed beneath the flat roof’s overhang suggest classical patterning. Stone’s love of repetitive columns is well-established in this period of his work, but the fact that the piers are still anchored to the building in this case is unusual. There are no actual concrete grilles here, although the dense white piers seem to suggest one. The piers are so geometric and regular that the entrance is concealed. This regularity and repetition make the building appear secure and serious, an appropriate mood for a public elementary school.
PS 199 is an early example of an urban public school designed by a well-known architect and built in response to the urban renewal project.