The 850-student primary/intermediate school on the campus of Queens College, Flushing, New York, is the second constructed by New York School Construction Authority using a superstructure comprised solely of structural reinforced concrete. The material was chosen for durability, cost savings, speed of construction and ability to combine with other materials to achieve a pleasing architectural presentation. The concrete frame of the building is inherently fireproof. The architectural concrete is fully exposed as the finish surface for interior of the walls and ceilings. This 120,000 square-foot school was fast-tracked, with a total construction duration schedule of 28 months.
The concrete stairways are enclosed in cast-in-place reinforced concrete walls. All the interior wall and soffit surfaces are smooth concrete surfaces. The wide piers separating the stairways are articulated with openings filled with clear glass block.
“The unique combination of safety, speed of construction, and long-term durability is what makes cast-in-place reinforced concrete the ideal material for a school—or any other public or commercial building,” said Alfred G. Gerosa, president of The New York Concrete Alliance, Inc. He also applauded the way the architects at Michael Fieldman Associates emphasized the concrete’s aesthetic potential.
In the classrooms and corridors, the basic formwork system for the exposed concrete is round columns and 16-inch deep long coffers. The round columns are formed with plastic surfaced form material to present a very smooth surface. The fiberglass coffer forms present a matching smooth surface and are laid out symmetrically with the beam/column grid. Beams at the column lines are formed by separating the coffers and exposing the plastic coated panel material on the deck formwork. This kept the beams and the ribs of the ceiling in the same horizontal plane and by varying the rib and beam widths achieved a unique, powerful ceiling presentation.
In the auditorium, the concrete ceiling system surrounds a lowered ceiling, curved and shaped to enhance the acoustics. The relationship of the ribbed concrete ceiling and the white lowered ceiling structure is a unique use of concrete to enhance the design of the auditorium space.
Since the site is sloped architecturally, exposed concrete retaining walls, ramp, and steps are used to make the transition from the building to the playing fields at the higher part of the site.
Concrete crack control in the stair enclosure and retaining walls was achieved by using internal crack inducing devices. Waterstop devices were used at surfaces exposed to the weather. By using internal crack control devices the concrete surfaces were kept free of revealed articulation presenting continuous smooth surfaces unbroken by reveals. The internal crack control devices were located at form panel butt joints in the formwork. The resulting cracks aligned closely with the butt joint line and visually related to the architectural presentation.
Concrete was used as the basic architectural material primarily because it was presentable right after form removal. The concrete was only lightly cleaned and a clear sealer/anti-graffiti treatment applied prior to completion of the building.