With a little paint and some bold typography, a school designed to change the life of its students has undergone a transformation of its own. For the Achievement First Endeavor Middle School, a charter school for grades 5 through 8 in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, Pentagram has created a program of environmental graphics that help the school interiors become a vibrant space for learning. The project was completed in collaboration with Rogers Marvel Architects, who designed the school as a refurbishment and expansion of an existing building.
Achievement First is a network of public charter schools in Brooklyn and Connecticut. With the support of the Robin Hood Foundation, Achievement First seeks to provide students in urban areas with an education that will put them on the path to college. Endeavor Middle School has a student body of about 300 and is ranked number four in the best K to eight schools in New York City. The students at Endeavor have a reputation for taking pride in their school, and the new graphics capture this confident spirit.
Character building is the foundation of Endeavor’s teaching philosophy, and the environmental graphics at the school have been inspired by a series of motivational slogans used by its teachers. Achievement First originally produced these slogans—“All of us will learn,” “Whatever it takes,” etc.—as colorful stickers that students were encouraged to affix to their books and lockers. The designers enlarged these into supergraphics that help define the interior spaces. The graphics appear as a series of equations (“Education = Choice,” “Education = Freedom”) in the halls, quotations running around the perimeter of the gymnasium, and most noticeably, climbing the main staircase at a front of the school, where they are visible through windows to the street. As in the program Pentagram designed for the school of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, the Endeavor graphics become part of the architecture and help the building become a participant in the learning process: celebrating language, “talking” to students, encouraging them to do better, creating a unique environment they can call their own.
All of this was accomplished with little expense. As every homeowner knows, paint can be a simple and economical solution for transforming a space. At Endeavor the process required thorough planning. Using the existing color palette, the designers applied the colors to a scale model of the school to conceive of the patterns and placement for specific installations. In rooms like the cafeteria, the bands of color are used to define and enhance the architecture, creating an illusion of depth that expands the space. In other areas, the painting of typography, set in Rockwell, is intricate and detailed.