122 Amsterdam Avenue between 65th and 66th Streets (Martin Luther King Jr. High School)
Type: Public School
Architect: Frost Associates
Developer/Owner/Builder: New York City
Primary Style: Modern
Primary Facade: Glass, Steel, Concrete
Wish List: Current Wish List
Architects Frost and Associates designed the Martin Luther King Jr. High School in 1969 and from that year onwards, the school has remained a poised, quiet sentinel on Amsterdam Avenue. The protective aura which surrounds the buildings rises from a 1960s movement to transform schools into “fortified strongholds,” to serve as refuge from dangerous city slums. Though the MLK Jr. High School’s materials are by nature brute and industrial (namely Cor-ten steel, tinted glass and concrete), together they exude simplicity and rationality. Through the synergy of these materials and the philosophy of design, the school aimed to shelter Manhattan’s youth from the social ills of its time.-
The MLK Jr. High School draws inspiration from many landmarks of corporate architectural design, linking the world of commerce with high school and conveying this particular school’s intention to imbue professionalism and privacy on the latter. Similarly conceived schools sought to heighten students’ concentration by isolating them from undesirable surroundings. Classrooms are situated on the interior and a corridor runs the perimeter of the school – the school wards off distraction and serves as a durable, vandal-proof structure. A school such as this serves to remind one of the tumultuous and chaotic decade which gave birth to the need for such a haven.
The structure’s situation on the lot, its garrison-type façade, its increasing level of isolation as one approaches and subsequently enters the building, and the lack of windows in all classrooms make the structure very secluded and protected. These same qualities, expressly sought after during the time of conception, should not be convoluted into the building’s weak points.