You know exactly where you are when you walk through the newly opened Avenues: The World School. There are spectacular views of Manhattan at all levels and from just about every space in the 1928 former warehouse designed by Cass Gilbert for the R.C. Williams Company, a grocery wholesaler. The skyline, the High Line park, and the bustling, gritty streets of West Chelsea are at its doorstep, providing just the type of contextual setting the school's three founders, its leadership council, and the design team had in mind when they selected the 10-story, poured-in-place-concrete structure as the first of 20 international campuses they plan to roll out over the next 10 or more years.
According to Avenues' chief facilities officer, architect Raymond Bordwell, each facility will reflect its location, whether that is New York City, or Beijing or S'o Paulo (the next two campuses, both scheduled to open in 2015). There will be similar programmatic elements, however. Developed with a corporate-like approach, the privately funded institution aims to provide real-world experiences for its pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The curriculum revolves around self-directed, project-based learning with a multinational emphasis that includes language immersion. New York students spend half their day in English-speaking classrooms and the other half learning and attending classes in either Mandarin or Spanish. Eventually, children and teachers will interact with other Avenues campuses via distance-classroom cameras and foreign-exchange programs.