Grace Church School Hope Library
Grace Church School commissioned CWB Architects in 2008 to design a rooftop library and two outdoor recreational areas for pre-schoolers, kindergartners, and parishioners. The school building, which is adjacent to the very prominent Gothic-Revival Grace Church in Brooklyn Heights, was last updated in the 1930s. Our design objective was to create a rooftop landscape consistent with the Gothic silhouette of the existing building, drawing inspiration from the famous chimney sweeps scene from “Mary Poppins.”

The primary form is a bulkhead that appears utilitarian in nature but is fitted with three dormer windows with interior seating. The project involved very complex sectional relationships among the building’s several floors, which we resolved by inserting a mezzanine level where the window seats are. The mezzanine creates a layered landscape that is fun and engaging, and accommodates between eight and 16 children at a time.

Our scope of work in designing this roof enclosure, which had to feel simultaneously pleasant, open and accessible, required that we address several challenges inherent in the existing conditions. Because the building is an historic landmark located in an historic district, any change to the existing roofline had to gain approval of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. CWB obtained unanimous approval from both the Brooklyn Heights Association LPC committee and the New York City LPC.


LOCATION   |   Brooklyn Heights
SIZE   |   894 sf + outdoor play area
YEAR COMPLETE   |   2009
SCOPE   |   Design and renovation of a rooftop library and two outdoor recreation areas.


PARTNER IN CHARGE | Brendan Coburn
PROJECT TEAM   |   Janelle Gunther, Jesse Fearins, Sarah Ramsey, Abdou Ndoye
INTERIOR DESIGN   |   Erin Fearins
STRUCTURAL ENGINEER   |   Grigg & Davis Engineers, PC
EXPEDITOR   |   J. Callahan Consulting, Inc.
CONTRACTOR   |   Burda Construction
PHOTOGRAPHER   |   Catherine Tighe