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Perth Amboy High School
Perth Amboy, New Jersey

The Perth Amboy school district developed statistics that proved that public school students score much higher on standardized tests when school size is kept below 500 students. The more intimate the learning community, the less likely a student will get lost in the shuffle. The typical American high school has over 2,000 students. In fact, the competition brief called for 2,500 students to be subdivided into five “schools-within-a-school.” UrbanLab & Robertson McAnulty’s collaboative project was concerned with identity and difference. How to ensure a separate identity for the five academies while insuring their integration into the fabric of the school. And, at the next scale, how to ensure the identity of the school as an institution while opening it to the community and multiplying the possibilities for social interaction.

This thickened donut-shaped zone, the Home Deck, houses the shared functions of the school: the auditoria, gyms, offices, and all the spaces used by students. Many of these programs are also open to the public after school hours. The smaller learning communities (or “school within a school”) are themselves embedded into the thick deck. They are more-or-less discrete towers (each three stories), reinforcing their programmatic separateness. The towers each connect to the Park Landscape, Home Deck, and Roof Garden.