Posts tagged with "Schools":

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Escobedo Soliz designs two prefab schools in rural Mexico

Mexican practice Escobedo Soliz recently completed two schools in Mexico's Puebla region, which was devastated by an earthquake in 2017. According to the architects, over 200 public schools were destroyed in the region, which spurred a group of private investors to commission the firm to create two primary schools in the town of Santa Isabel Cholula. The team had only nine months to design and build both structures, leading to the selection of a modular, prefabricated system. The two schools use repetitive, single-story, barn-like modules with skylights along their ridges and red-pigmented precast concrete panels on their exteriors. The modules are arranged along covered porticos that act as outdoor hallways.
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New school ties together Nebraska towns torn apart by tornados

On June 16, 2014, a tornado tore through the small agricultural community of Pilger, Nebraska, causing catastrophic damage to the village 85 miles northwest of Omaha. The tornado, one of two that hit Pilger on the same day, was part of a multi-day storm that produced more than 100 tornados across the Great Plains. The EF-4 grade storm generated winds of up to 200 miles an hour, left two people dead and sixteen critically injured, and caused the destruction of over half of the village’s buildings. As it spiraled its way from Pilger’s main street, the storm took out the clerk’s office, post office, a Lutheran church, a convenience store, and half of Pilger’s homes. Grain bins belonging to the local farmers’ co-op blew away, leaving behind mountains of soybeans and corn. The Wisner-Pilger Middle School, the only school in Pilger, also sustained heavy damage. Built in 1909, the school served K-12 students from the village until 1969, when the Pilger School District consolidated with the neighboring community of Wisner. At the time the storm hit, the Wisner-Pilger Middle School served approximately seventy-five 5th and 6th grade students, while an elementary-through-fourth grade school and a high school were located in Wisner, ten miles east. The condition of the school left the Wisner-Pilger Board of Education with contentious choices that weighed on both communities: rebuild the destroyed middle school; bring all three schools to a new building in Pilger; or combine all three schools on one campus in Wisner. “Educationally, a single-site school was the best solution,” said Darin Hanigan, project coordinator at BVH Architecture, based in Lincoln, Nebraska. BVH visited Pilger within days of the tornado hitting to explore restoration of the 1909 Wisner-Pilger Middle School but found that the damage was too extensive to repair. The decision was made to create an addition to the high school in Wisner for pre-K through 6th grade. The new school needed to be an object of pride for both Wisner and Pilger. “Rural communities get a new building once every five years—if they are lucky” said Hanigan. “They want to make a statement.” For BVH, making a statement started from the inside out. This included omitting rooms that cater to only one use and taking a look at opportunities for the structure to complement the school’s unique educational model. In the school, students spend only 20 percent of their time in their assigned classrooms—the rest is spent in flexible, sometimes multiuse spaces; the commons, located just inside the school’s entrance, serves as a gathering place but also as a lunchroom. With all students learning under the same roof, grades are able to collaborate, creating more opportunities for students to learn at different levels, and spaces needed to accommodate that. Moving throughout the building, students pass through a tactile environment with ample room to display their work. Laser-cut metal panels with designs inspired by math, language, the solar system, and local topography adorn the school. Surfaces are kickable, trackable, writable, and often magnetic. Windows are carefully placed to support educational activities, with low windows located inside reading nooks, and high windows placed in resource spaces and hallways. High windows are kept away from teaching walls to minimize glare. Windows are arranged throughout the school to accommodate views at a range of heights, whether the students are walking through the school or seated at their desks. “Students spend their time inside versus outside, so that’s where the money should go,” Hanigan said. Spaces abound with diffuse light, courtesy of a cost-effective metal screening system. BVH Architecture remained ever-mindful of the destructive potential that precipitated the need for the new school. The roof system of the band room has a hollow core integrated into the precast wall, with the band room itself set inside the school’s center. The band room has the ability to shelter every student and educator on the campus if a tornado were to pass through again.
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Texas judge halts school construction after 95 bodies unearthed on site

Last week, Texas judge James Shoemake ordered the Fort Bend Independent School District to halt construction after the remains of 95 black prisoners were unearthed on a property it was building on. The site, once known as the “Hellhole on the Brazos,” was the former Imperial State Prison Farm, the infamous home of numerous prison camps and sugar cane plantations where slaves lived and worked in hellish conditions before their subsequent deaths. The property is located in Sugar Land, now one of the wealthiest and fastest-growing cities in Texas just southwest of Houston, but which once served as a graveyard for slaves. It was there, after the district broke ground for a new school, where archaeologists exhumed a massive, 19th-century graveyard of nearly 100 bodies that had been concealed five feet beneath the soil in dilapidated pinewood caskets for decades. According to NBC affiliate KPRC, Judge Shoemake ordered the school district to halt construction so that the human remains could be examined and investigated at the site. “This find is very different from any other,” Judge Shoemake said in an interview with KPRC. “We have a history that’s different. I want some more effort. This is important stuff. Families and communities are affected by this. You came here for permission [to build]; I’m not going to give you permission.” Sugar Land has a unique and shocking history. In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the town, located along the Brazos River, served as the epicenter of the country's sugar industry. The convict-lease system flourished throughout the region, targeting former slaves who were leased by the state to private businesses and forced to work in coal mines, plantations, railroads, and state projects. According to The Washington Post, the black “convicts” were imprisoned into the system for offenses as minor as homelessness, flirting with white women, or petty theft, yet they were made to work from sunrise to sunset in the fields, occasionally until they “dropped dead in their tracks.” The Fort Bend Independent School District’s construction site encompasses land that was called “Imperial State Farm Prison Camp No. 1.” Conditions were so horrific that prisoners wrote songs about how they would rather die than live another day of beatings, whippings, and slaving under the hot sun. Private contractors did not care about the health and well-being of their workers. According to W. Caleb McDaniel, a history professor at Rice University in Houston, the convict-leasing system experienced tremendously high levels of disease and mortality. If a prisoner died, a contractor would simply demand a replacement prisoner from the state. More than 3,500 prisoners of ages ranging from 14 to 70 years old died between 1866 and 1912 when lawmakers finally outlawed convict leasing out of utter shock at the death rates. This past summer, a team of archaeologists requested permission from the Texas Historical Commission to conduct a more thorough investigation of the human bones salvaged from the cemetery. Their main goal is to perform DNA testing on the remains in order to identify the prisoners. The Fort Bend Independent School District shares this ambition, telling KPRC that “our sole mission is to educate students and we only exist to learn. The more knowledge we have the better. We want DNA testing. We want answers, we want to connect the body with the name, and we want to tell the story of an individual.” As of last week, Judge Shoemake said he hopes to reconsider his decision to halt construction by March 2019.
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Rockwell Group's Blue School brings a pop of color to Lower Manhattan

Rockwell Group’s design for the recently opened Blue School in New York City falls outside the lines of traditional design for primary and secondary education, especially in the cramped Big Apple. While the school includes many basic elements such as closed-door classrooms and a sizable cafeteria, the one thing the architects were expected to uniquely incorporate for the private school, which was founded by alumni of the Blue Man Group, is color. Lots of color. Stretched across four floors of a mixed-use, former medical building in Manhattan’s Financial District, the school serves as a “home away from home” for its kids, featuring flexible spaces and playful palettes that encourage creative self-expression and pride at all ages. The Blue School opened last month for its inaugural semester, welcoming 100 students and 70 faculty members through its shiny glass doors under a neon sign signaling its presence in the neighborhood. The 45,000-square-foot facility is the New York-based institution’s second campus designed by Rockwell Group. It provides much-needed breathing room for the school’s fourth through eighth-grade levels, which were previously housed in what’s now the primary school located in the South Street Seaport. Thanks to the move, pre-kindergarten through third-grade students were also given more space inside their facility, which opened in 2010. For the Upper School, as the new facility is known, Rockwell Group leveled up the design out of respect for the older children, who naturally are becoming more mature as they age. The architects outfitted the space with a bright, eye-catching interior and a layout designed to spark personal discovery as well as collaboration. “There’s a sense of respect the kids feel in spaces designed for them,” said Michael Fischer, the associate principal who led the design with David Rockwell. “They have autonomy, feel empowered and trusted.” Upon walking through the doors of the new Blue School, students, teachers, and guests are greeted with a lobby sporting a lounge-like feel, as well a high-gloss, neon yellow central staircase that serves as the main point of circulation in the facility. To the left in a community space called the Commons, colorful outdoor furniture adds a contemporary twist to the cafeteria setting along with bleacher-like seating wrapped in wood and staggered along the walls for a topographical effect. Additionally, a bar with stools lines the edge of the 1,800-square-foot space overlooking the street. The Commons also includes walls lined with LED-lit garden planters where food is grown as part of the school’s science curriculum as well as for students’ meals. The living wall is maintained in partnership with Brooklyn Grange and enhances the living room-like atmosphere of the shared space. On the basement level, Rockwell Group created a grown-up version of their Imagination Playground system with which students can construct their own seating stations using shapely, blue-foam cushions. The surrounding walls are clad with colorful, geometric wallpaper by Flavor Paper. Two studios as well as a column-free gymnasium, which doubles as a 130-seat auditorium—the Blue School’s first ever performance space—were also designed for the school’s arts and exercise programs. If flexibility is an integral part of the Blue School’s educational philosophy and its interior architectural design, the concept is most evident on the top floors where each learning space includes key elements that allow teachers and students to take over space how they see fit. Rockwell Group collaborated with Uhuru to create non-directional trapezoidal desks that can be easily set up to form clusters for group-work situations. Each classroom also includes a raised carpeted platform dedicated to quiet reading or presentations. An art room, maker lab, and materials library were also given major space on the second floor. Both are fully stocked with every kind of arts and engineering supply imaginable, from paint brushes to saws, to glue and glass. An adjacent materials library—open to the kids at all times—serves several fields of study and specific STEAM courses. The Blue School’s library features a book-lined, double-height reading space with a massive sofa and custom common tables by Rockwell Group for Knoll. Hanging from the ceiling next to the curtain-wall window is a light sculpture designed in collaboration with Dot Dash Design. It changes colors throughout the day and amplifies the school’s interior at night. From the street level, passersby can see activity within the facility and students get a sense of inclusion in the bustling neighborhood. Since the Blue School began in 2006, it has added one grade level per year to its roster of students—hence the need to build out a new campus for its burgeoning population. The first group of kids to begin at the school recently graduated from 8th grade and though they never had the chance to move into the new Upper School, they were integrated into the extensive planning process that Rockwell Group held with students, parents, and teachers. The school expects the number of students to double over the next several years. Blue School will featured as an Open Access site during Open House New York this Saturday, October 13th. Check it out from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. or go on a guided tour with representatives from Blue School and Rockwell Group at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. Reservations are not required.
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Add security and safety to schools with new glass and door solutions

This year, on average, there has been one school shooting per week, according to CNN. Enduring, long-term measures to prevent attacks and safeguard schools require legislation and other policy changes that may be out of designers' reach. In the meantime, there are design measures that help make educational spaces safer, namely by preventing entry. Take a look at the following windows and doors designed and tested to protect spaces of learning. Attack Resistant Door Solutions Assa Abloy and School Guard Glass Hardware manufacturer Assa Abloy and safety glass manufacturer School Guard Glass partnered to design an attack-resistant door for schools. When paired together, the Ceco Door with SG5 attack-resistant glazing survives the most brutal blows and even gunshots (see the video above). Stronger and longer-lasting than a security film, the system is easy and affordable to retrofit to pre-existing openings for increased security. CHILDGARD security glazing Global Security Glazing Many schools across the country are not new buildings. Their windows are often tempered glass, which shatters immediately upon impact. CHILDGARD glazing is laminated security glass designed to help both new and pre-existing structures endure the hardest blows. It is a cost-effective alternative to bulletproof glass and easier to install than safety films, which must be anchored to frames. Quick Action Lockdown SSI Guardian In emergencies, seconds matter. This deadbolt classroom door instantly locks when the red button is pressed. When it is safe again or accidentally employed, the door automatically unlocks when the interior handle is turned. NIGHTLOCK LOCKDOWN 1 Nightlock Door Security Devices Sliding into place, this red metal security bracket attaches the door to the floor. There, the lock remains out of reach from the glass windows typically found in conventional classroom doors. The barricade system works with both inward and outward swing doors that are wood or metal. Security Window Film & Attachment System 3M Protect windows with this film that has the wherewithal to withstand an intruder for up to two minutes. If the glass is broken, the system that is anchored to the glass frame will stay attached to the film and protect the glass from shattering. Sponsored Product: Accurate Lock 9100SEC High Security Mortise Lock Withstands 300 times more abuse than the Standard Grade 1 Requirement. Aesthetics no longer need to be compromised to achieve the highest level of security—compatible with a variety of commercial, residential, or specialty trim.
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AIA speaks on safe school design at the White House

Earlier this week, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced its new initiative to advocate for improved school design policies. Yesterday a representative from the architectural organization met with senior White House cabinet members to discuss legislation that promotes the design of open learning environments that enhance security and safety. Jay Brotman, AIA, the partner at Svigals+Partners who led the design of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, spoke on behalf of the AIA in Washington. In his statement, Brotman presented best practices used for the school’s secure design and how his team collected input from the community, teachers, and students to address the most crucial needs. “The desire to craft design strategies that mitigate the challenges schools face is an absolute priority,” he said. “As architects, we do this every day. However, two ongoing problems prevent local school officials from implementing these solutions: a lack of access to quality school-design information and the ability to fund them.” Part of the AIA’s goal is to assist the government in creating legislation that provides pathways for federally-funded architecture and design services and grants. They also want to establish a “federal clearinghouse” of resources detailing best practices for school officials, architects, and design professionals to stay updated on the latest research involving safe school design. In front of the Federal Commission on School Safety, Brotman explained that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work in designing these facilities. “Whether it’s a retrofit or new school, each school must be designed for its unique student population, for its unique location, and to meet the needs of its unique community,” he said. “The primary goal is to provide an inspiring, health environment that promotes learning. Security features, while vital and necessary, should be as invisible as possible and incorporated into the school’s design. Failing to do so puts children’s education, emotional development and pro-social behavior at risk.” The AIA has yet to unveil any specific design prescriptions for school safety, but Brotman’s testimony is one step closer toward creating more awareness on the importance of safe education architecture. Yesterday’s meeting isn’t the first instance this month in which the AIA has spoken out on the topic. RTA Architects principal Stuart Coppedge, FAIA, presented insights into the collaborative design and community evaluation process to the U.S. Department of Education’s Federal Commission on School Safety in early August while members of the AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) also gave recommendations for safe school design to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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AIA creates initiative to avert gun violence in schools

In response to the rising tide of school shootings and subsequent debates over the role and responsibilities architects face in designing schools, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has codified their stance and has launched a bipartisan initiative to help schools secure architectural services. In a statement released earlier today, Where We Stand: School Design & Student Safety, the AIA broke down how it will advocate for schools to improve their design policies and how it will help schools secure funding to do so; notably absent were any specific design prescriptions. “Architects have a role to play in addressing school violence,” wrote AIA President Carl Elefante, FAIA, in a press release. “For two decades, architects have worked with school communities racked by tragedy to develop better strategies in school design. While public discourse on access to firearms and mental health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now. AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children.” To meet those goals, the AIA will be taking a two-pronged approach: lobbying for schools to be able to use federal funding and grants on architectural and design services, and creating a federal repository of best practices for designers to draw on. The AIA already maintains a list of academic design resources and hosts the Committee on Architecture for Education, but wants to create what they describe as a “federal clearinghouse” to serve as a national resource. The AIA is also touting its participation in the two-day 2018 National School Security Roundtable sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security on August 1, in which members fielded suggestions from the community on how to design schools that were safe but still open. Of course, all of this is to say that, as the Institute has itself acknowledged, design is only a piece of the equation and won’t solve the problem in the long run. The AIA says that it wants to create scalable design guidelines based on local feedback from the community and local chapters. As the renewed Sandy Hook School from Svigals + Partners demonstrated, it is possible to balance those concerns in a practical manner, and is a welcome alternative to proposals calling for the "hardening" of schools– such as calls to use federal funding to harden buildings into windowless bunkers.
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Brooks+Scarpa adds softness and safety to a new school in L.A.

A recently completed school project by Brooks + Scarpa in Los Angeles aims to soften the severity of new school security measures by focusing on formal exuberance and textured materiality to create a series of perforated metal panel-covered learning sheds that also happen to be bulletproof. With the project, Animo South Los Angeles Charter High—a public charter school located in South L.A’s Westmont neighborhood—aims to bounce back from a devastating 2014 fire that wiped out half the campus. The school has not been directly been involved in a shooting, but violence plagues portions of the surrounding local community. Because the school is located near the sites of several gang-related shootings—the complex has been hit by unintended drive-by gunfire in the past—the new facilities are designed to higher security standards than might otherwise be the case. Four years after the blaze, Brooks + Scarpa have delivered a new 630-student structure that aims for “fresh air and daylight” in its public spaces as well as “a safe and secure environment for leaning and social engagement,” according to the architects. The C-shaped complex contains eleven classrooms in all, as well as two science labs, a faculty lounge, and new administrative and counseling offices that are all linked by exterior walkways wrapped in see-thru metal paneling. For the project, the architects aim to harness new safety-focused design considerations in a way that does not limit design possibilities or produce windowless, hardened spaces. Site requirements for the project demanded a perimeter security wall that was not only 20 feet tall, but could also repel bullets. By placing the bulk of the classrooms along this outermost edge of the site and wrapping those elements in solid walls and expanses of bulletproof curtain walls, the designers appealed to multiple requirements at once. Providing transparency and rigidity together, the perimeter walls—almost totally wrapped in reflective perforated yellow panels—appear solid during the day, when they catch the sunlight. But at night, the volumes glow from within, revealing the silhouettes of the building’s interiors. The perimeter wall maneuver also opened up the possibility of locating a generous courtyard within the complex, creating a plaza that could potentially unify and uplift the campus. Following a footprint derived from the intersecting mix of easements and setbacks the define the site’s buildable area, the single-story complex rises as a seemingly monolithic cluster of three buildings that sit just far enough apart from one another to leave exit corridors in between. These spare and rectilinear circulation spaces are bound by canted walls and connect to the large semi-circular courtyard along the edge of the site facing the existing school. Here, the circular plaza is inscribed with a rounded planter while a linear stone bench cuts across the expanse. Wynne Landscape Design was the landscape architect on the project. The yellow scrim creates a variable and permeable semi-circular edge around the courtyard, cutting into an internal walkway on one end and punctured by a large picture window looking into an administrative office on the other. The courtyard brings daylight into the complex and allows for views to stretch through the building, a boost to the eyes-on-the-street approach of contemporary school safety design. The steel truss-supported scrim is visible from inside the classroom and office spaces, some of which feature direct connections to the exterior spaces formed by the wall and the classroom. Larry Scarpa, principal of Brooks + Scarpa, said, “There are many issues to solve [in school design]—including safety—but without a vibrant learning environment, the kids are the only people who suffer.” Scarpa explained the project also featured high ceilings—the 13- to 20-foot ceilings in the classrooms—which the designers provided by leaving the structural ceilings exposed, with a layer of blue jean insulation left open for all to see. “Studies have shown that students score higher and score better with higher ceilings and ceilings that are painted blue,” Scarpa explained. The school is in the process of moving into the spaces and will come online later this fall in time for the 2018-2019 school year.
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How can architects balance security and openness in school design after mass shootings?

In the wake of the horrific mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, we the members of the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (AIA CAE), feel compelled to express our collective sympathies to all affected by this horrible tragedy. Since the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, there have been over 200 school shootings with nearly 150,000 Americans directly affected by these incidents. The courage, grace, eloquence, and poise of the students from Stoneman Douglas serve as an inspiration to us all. We hear their call for action and stand ready to support the cause. As architects of educational environments across the learning continuum, we look to Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) guidelines to help us design school facilities that discourage criminal behavior and bullying through the incorporation of unobtrusive security features that are compatible with positive learning environments. These include providing clear sightlines to parking lots from staffed administration locations, limiting building access to a single entry point with a sallyport design, target hardening through security glazing, enhancing passive supervision through interior transparency, territorial reinforcement through fencing and thoughtful landscaping, and other solutions. One of the dangers of these and other school hardening strategies, however, is that these measures alone aren’t enough. Sandy Hook Elementary and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School had some of the “target hardening” elements described in many CPTED standards installed, and it didn’t stop perpetrators from entering the schools and causing tragedies. As architects, we are being asked to develop designs that provide for bullet-proof glass, secure entry vestibules, surveillance camera systems, etc. These can be beneficial to deter an active shooter and can also aid in providing deterrents for bullying and other unfavorable behavior, but they are not the exclusive answer. Our clients are being barraged with offers from various manufacturers about products that will shield students in the event of an active-shooter situation, and you can certainly understand the pressure from parents and community members to provide these measures and more to keep their kids safe. While we believe the safety and security of students, educators and administrators on school campuses are of paramount importance, it is our responsibility as architects, however, to serve as a counterpoint to some of these hardening tactics. We cannot let fear dictate design or advocate for designing our schools to resemble prisons. Our schools and communities deserve more from us. It is important to create spaces that are warm and welcoming to students, educators, and communities. We often work with schools, districts, and colleges to balance the need for safety and security with a strong desire for flexibility, collaboration and connection. In addition to providing enhanced security measures, we also need to look at research on provisions of “soft design” as well. In response to the MSD school shooting, we have seen many school and university officials, national educational organizations, affiliated organizations, and individuals come together as an interdisciplinary group to develop a “Call for Action to Prevent Gun Violence in the US” where they stress the importance of creating stronger, more connected school communities focused on development and identification of soft skills in students to reduce the incidence of isolation, depression, bullying and discrimination in our schools. The design of schools can and should be an active partner in this conversation. Through transparency, adjacency, and the creation of warm, welcoming environments, architects can provide the physical spaces to nurture these activities. Svigals + Partners redesigned Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, after the horrifying 2012 shooting that killed twenty students and six adults. Today, it stands as a shining example of how to provide the highest safety and security features while emphasizing its educational mission and connection to the community. The members of the AIA CAE are fortunate in our work to bear witness to the incredible efforts of educators and administrators of public and private schools. In addition to their diligent focus on developing the knowledge, skills, and character of their students, we have seen how hard they work, within their often-meager resources, to attend to the social and emotional needs of their students. Today’s students face issues of stress, drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression and mental illness in quantities never before seen. It is through this lens that we understand the critical need for space and resources to support the creation of strong communities where each and every student feels heard, accepted and loved. Design of collaborative areas, transparency, and informal learning environments are keys to supporting next generation learning practices and to creating a strong sense of connectedness within a school or university campus. Although it is an uncomfortable and often controversial topic, no conversation about school safety and security can be complete without addressing the issue of gun ownership and safeguards. Recommendations to train and arm teachers to protect their students are inconsistent with the expert advice from school resource officers, school administrators, and teachers we encounter every day as we work with them to design safe and nurturing school communities. The National Association of School Resource Officers, the leading organization in school-based policing, issued a statement in the days following the MSD massacre opposing arming teachers. In the discussions we have with our school and university clients across the country, it is often stated that the answer to providing greater security on school campuses is fewer guns, not more. The leaders of the AIA CAE have heard from school and university administrators, educators, and students that we need to join them to compel our legislators to enact common-sense gun laws that are supported by a vast majority of Americans.  The protection of responsible gun ownership and the prevention of gun violence can both be achieved through thoughtful and forceful legislation that works in concert with mental health services and safe school design to ensure our schools remain a bastion of hope for our nation’s children. The voices of the Stoneman Douglas students and those from around the country that are joining them should inspire us all to be contributors to the solution. The time for words is over and the time for action is now. The leadership group of the AIA CAE continues to work closely with AIA National staff and officers to find ways to encourage a continued, multidisciplinary, and comprehensive dialogue around school safety and security. While working with a school community to envision their new school, we were recently asked, “How can the architecture support relationships?” This should be the lens we are using in designing our schools, and we as the AIA CAE look forward to continuing to develop opportunities at the national and local level to further this very important conversation. We hope you will join us! Karina Ruiz is vice chair of the American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education.
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Inaba Williams converts a challenging interior into a luminous Brooklyn preschool

Although architects design new buildings for well-endowed nonprofits all the time, it is somewhat uncommon for firms known for high design to take on super-low-budget commissions. But Inaba Williams was up for the challenge. For a new preschool in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, the Inaba Williams team drew out the quirks of an awkward, column-filled interior to deliver a luminous space that supports the school’s commitment to immersion in Japanese language and culture. The Brooklyn-based firm connected with Aozora Gakuen after the school leased the space, which had sat vacant for two years despite its location in a desirable neighborhood. Unlike most chronically empty New York commercial properties, the rent wasn’t too high for prospective lessees—the space was just too weird. The second floor, where the school is located, doubles as the structural transfer level between the apartment tower above and offices and a parking garage below. In plan, the structural columns look like confetti left over from a manic crafting session. To reconcile the column array with the client’s needs, the team highlighted the irregularities of the 3,500-square-foot space while harmonizing the circulation pattern across three classrooms, a bathroom, and a shared kitchen. Inaba Williams founding principal Jeffrey Inaba opted to move the classrooms to the perimeter and organize an interior pickup and drop-off area (called the Aozora Room, “blue sky” room in Japanese). Surrounded by glass panels that pull light in from the street-front classrooms, that area is the heart of the school as well as a transitional space from the outside world into the classroom. Along with cubbies (getabako), it’s delineated by a raised wood floor that physically separates the shoes-on portion of the school from the classrooms, which, in accordance with Japanese custom, are shoes-off. Typically, architects work to mask irregular features, but in the Aozora Room, they turned what Inaba deemed “the craziest part of the structure” into a defining feature. Making use of what he called “an aspirational Marcel Duchamp door,” a reference to the French artist’s Door: 11, Rue Larrey, the design now has one door leading from the bathroom to the classroom and the other leading from the bathroom to the Aozora Room’s threshold area. All the doors can be opened for seamless circulation or closed for activity separation. To save money, the firm installed standard fixtures and “very, very economical” wood floor and tiling. While Inaba declined to go on the record with the budget, he did say the project cost far less than a typical New York institutional interior—without sacrificing design quality. Consequently, “there’s programmatic variability with very simple elements,” he said. Beyond design, the experience made the firm excited to work with other mission-driven clients. “There are many organizations where the physical space is critical to what [the client] does, but they don’t have the means to afford an architect or think about design,” Inaba said. “To be able to work with a group and make a space that aligned with their teaching philosophy was really important.”
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The NRA wants to "harden" schools into windowless bunkers

With the debate around gun control raging after the February 14th shooting in Parkland, Florida, President Trump and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have been banging on alternative solutions to prevent mass shootings in schools, from arming teachers to hardening the schools themselves. But if the NRA had their way, what would the school of the future look like? Judging from the design guidelines that came out of their 2013 National School Shield Task Force report, they’d likely resemble prisons. The 2013 report was commissioned by the NRA in response to the Sandy Hook shooting at the end of 2012, and apart from advocating for school safety plans, the task force’s findings at times come closer to recommendations for bunkers. Ironically, Sandy Hook School reopened in 2016 with a focus on "passive security" and the healing serenity of nature, presenting a diametrically different vision of school design. Playgrounds and the rest of the school would need to be surrounded by a perimeter fence with select entrance points, and to ensure that potential shooters couldn’t cut through it, all vegetation would need to be stripped from the area. Trees and shrubs provide “hiding places for people, weapons, and explosive devices, blocking lighting, inadvertently providing routes of unauthorized access,” though the report notes that trees aren’t useless; they can “provide a level of blast shielding” in the case of an explosive threat. Being able to view the planted landscape from the inside isn’t much of a concern, as the report recommends shrinking, removing, or barring over vulnerable windows to prevent attackers from breaching them. Ideally, schools would retrofit their windows with bulletproof glass and retain the ability to surveil the surrounding area, but with ballistic glass costing around $100 per square foot, it seems more likely that they’d just do away with them altogether. Parking lots would be heavily rejiggered, with a focus on breaking up the large swaths of asphalt into heavily surveilled parking “islands.” While it might be convenient for students and teachers to park near the school, the NRA notes “vehicles can provide potential attackers with a means of concealing and transporting weapons, can be used as a tool in overpowering physical security infrastructure, and can even serve as weapons in and of themselves.” Entrance doors made from bulletproof glass at the reception area for trapping attackers, rigging the building with security cameras and reconfiguring school floor plans to resemble a panopticon are all on the list, and seem more like recommendations for designing a military base than anything else. The NRA suggests funding these upgrades through federal grants, but with schools across the country unable to afford heat in the winter, and teachers striking for higher wages, it seems unlikely that this would happen. In that case, the report recommends students and teachers “hide and hope” if there’s a shooting. It remains to be seen whether the 150 schools that an NRA spokesperson said accepted help from the organization to fortify their schools are any safer. One guess is, probably not.
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Marlon Blackwell's copper-clad “barn” blends tradition with innovation

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Part of a larger master plan funded by the North Dallas Lamplighter School’s “Igniting Young Minds for a Lifetime of Learning” campaign, a new Innovation Lab and Lamplighter Barn are aimed at marrying technology and the school’s storied cooperative learning curriculum.
  • Facade Manufacturer Sterling Roof Systems
  • Architects Marlon Blackwell Architects
  • Facade Installer Sterling Roof Systems
  • Facade Consultants Hill & Wilkinson (general contractors)
  • Location Dallas, TX
  • Date of Completion 2017
  • System concealed fastener, flat panel system
  • Products custom fabricated copper panels by Sterling Roof Systems
Both buildings were designed by Arkansas-based architect Marlon Blackwell and represent his first built works in North Texas. The Innovation Lab will be home to a new teaching kitchen, environmental science spaces, a robotics lab, and a woodworking shop. The Lamplighter Barn will replace the campus’s former chicken coop, and with it, add an adjacent outdoor space for the animals of the campus to graze. Although the Lamplighter Barn continues to use the traditional red wooden planks, in line with the beloved existing barn it replaces, the Innovation Lab takes a striking visual direction through linear design moves and the introduction of copper in a broad stroke. “Copper is a durable and elegant material,” Blackwell said. The patina that will form over time will create variation in the facade as it responds to the movement of the sun overhead. The intent to use a long-lasting material was essential to the campus’ direction from the outset. Blackwell’s team developed a profile and standing seam system in line with their experience through the use of similar materials and articulation on past projects. With contractors Hill & Wilkinson and Sterling Roof Systems, details and methods were coordinated prior to fabrication. The resulting concealed-fastener, flat-panel system provides a high-performance facade that minimizes the amount of maintenance required over the long-term life of the building.
Though visually striking, the copper is not completely foreign to the campus—the material relates back to the details that adorn the original structures designed by O’Neil Ford. “The school’s curriculum is progressive, rooted in strong values, and proven to be one of the best in the country,” Blackwell explained. “The material choice not only complements the existing O’Neil Ford campus, it presents a new and substantial language for the school, one of permanence, and value, that continues to change and withstand the test of time.” Bradford Payne, a member of the project team at Marlon Blackwell Architects, said one of the successful details in the building is a "moment of discovery" at the end of an educational kitchen space where a cantilevered window extends sloping roof geometry outward into the site: "Light bleeds out from behind two walls that overlap. It isn’t completely evident from the main corridor where it is coming from, or the view and private oasis it provides. The window elevates off the ground and slopes with the roof, intensifying the reading of the exterior roofs pitching and rolling, that creates resonance with the shed roofs of the existing campus while generating a new architectural language." The Lamplighter School will be the focus of a panel discussion at upcoming Facades+ Dallas on February 20, 2018. Michael Friebele, the conference co-chair, will be moderating a conversation about how client requirements, site considerations, context, and history can improve building envelope design.