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What If We Put A School Atop Every Building In Manhattan?

A bold concept to reinvent the way we think about schools.

It goes without saying that education is underfunded. But if we already know this–and most of us probably agree on the point–why does nothing change?

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Maybe the educational movement just needs to reignited with a big, brash idea. And Schools in the Sky, a project by Ana Luisa Soares, Filipe Magalhães, and André Vergueiro as part of a competition to repurpose roofs, is just that. It asks, what if we put a school on top of every (non-pointy) building in NYC and then we painted them bright, eye-melting yellow?

The team calls the plan “a provocation.” By giving schools the most valuable and visible space in the city, education becomes something we’ll need to intrinsically value more, or, at minimum, something that we can’t possibly ignore.

“The yellow comes from the buses and taxis (if you say that you saw them everywhere, we wanted that you saw the schools everywhere, too),” writes student and project co-designer Ana Luisa Soares. “The shapes of the windows came from basic shapes games for kids.”

The result is a space that’s challenging to the political sector but inviting to children–at least children who aren’t afraid of heights. It’s a single statement that would be tied to the skyline, as a city of remarkable architecture would be topped with giant building blocks. But could it actually be done? Aren’t skyscrapers topped with ventilation systems, electrical transformers, and all sorts of other components? Wouldn’t the schools simply blow off the building tops without customized engineering and skyscraper-level construction?

“It started purely conceptual, but we believe that there is nothing utopic about it,” writes Soares. “It’s easy to build, with simple structural solutions, and quite interesting from the urban point of view. The utopia is only related to the fact that it would need a lot of public/private interests that we don’t believe to be achievable.”

Ah. So we’re right back where we started, addressing that little problem with funding.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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