Special Citation - SCUP Excellence in Architecture for Building Additions, Renovation or Adaptive Reuse

Brooklyn College, City University of New York

Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema
Brooklyn College, City University of New York - Feirstein Graduate School of Cinema
Jury Comments
". . . really ambitious program for a heavily subsidized school . . . interconnection between the floors created a community within a building . . . very light and open, keeping with the industrial nature of the building . . ."


    • Site – 290,000 sq ft; Building – 68,000 sq ft
    • Only film school in America built on a working film lot.
    • This is the university’s first off-campus facility and the city’s first public graduate film school.
    • The 24/7 college is housed within a historic Navy yard building fully restored and renovated.
    • The location of the school is critical to its mission: sending its graduates into the growing ranks of New York’s film industry.
    • Ribbon windows bathe the generous floor-to-floor heights in natural light.


Designed to embrace the culture of a contemporary movie lot and create a micro-campus for this new program, this facility includes everything students need to learn to make feature films. Modeled on the types of environments found on professional sets, the design blurs the boundaries between professional and academic spaces to prepare students for professional practice.

The design team worked with various stakeholders to develop a design that accommodates a new program with all the facilities necessary for sophisticated film production. The integrated process began with a pre-schematic programming and analysis, developed in collaboration with the school’s founder, academic faculty, facilities personnel, as well as board members and donors. This truly collaborative process resulted in a design anchored on the school’s core academic principals—to encourage learning by practice and hands-on programs and to provide state-of-the-art technology. An exemplary public-private partnership, the two main stakeholders were CUNY Brooklyn College, influencing the academic experience, and Steiner NYC, directing the school’s connection to site, management, and constructability.

The outmoded brick-clad 1940s Navy facility was completely renovated, restoring the Art Moderne façade, upgrading mechanical systems, and adding new elevators and structural interventions to accommodate academic programs. The façade’s industrial ribbon windows and distinctive radio towers add to the building’s charm and were preserved to State Historic Preservation standards. The building’s top two floors provided a blank slate, allowing the design team to reimagine this industrial space into hybrid zones with dual purposes—natural light for lecture rooms while absence of light, by means of blackout shades, for filming. A key planning decision included the removal of several structural columns permitting the desired open 3,000-square-foot Sound Stage.

Project Team

Dattner Architects; also Severud Associates Consulting Engineers, P.C.; AMA Consulting Engineers, P.C.; Acoustic Distinctions; Cerami & Associates; One Lux Studio; Alchemy Post Sound; Robert Schwartz and Associates; Design 2147; Lebowitz Gould Design Inc.