Posts tagged with "Schools":

Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

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.”
Placeholder Alt Text

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.
Placeholder Alt Text

Marlon Blackwell's copper-clad “barn” blends tradition with innovation

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
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.
Placeholder Alt Text

Emerging New York firms design 15 calming spaces for city high schools

For most teens, high school is an angsty time. This year, though, students at select New York City public high schools can de-stress in meditation and yoga rooms designed by emerging local firms. Today First Lady Chirlane McCray, students, and their teachers gathered at a Brooklyn school to announce the completion of 15 "wellness spaces" in public high schools across the five boroughs. The student-driven pilot program paired teenagers with faculty, architects, and graphic designers to transform underused spaces, indoors and outside, into peaceful areas that foster mental health. In all, the wellness rooms will serve almost 10,000 students. Six emerging firms designed the spaces, nine of which are indoors. Though every room is different, the spaces feature hydroponic gardens, recording booths, meditation areas, and restorative justice rooms. (The open-air classrooms share much of the same programming but also feature outdoor gardens.) The grant-funded projects are part of Mental Health by Design (MHxD), a program that's run through ThriveNYC, McCray's mental health initiative. MHxD asked Karen Kubey, an urbanist specializing in architecture and health, to match architects to the chosen schools. Kubey reached out to young New York firms, connecting them with projects in nine schools across four boroughs. The rooms were done on a tight budget in a short timeframe. Kubey paired Brooklyn's Peterson Rich Office (PRO) with two Bronx institutions, The Academy for Career and Living Skills (ACLS) and International School for Liberal Arts (ISLA). With $10,000 and less than four months to complete their work, the firm transformed a large unused classroom at ACLS into a Mindfulness Space, complete with hanging plants, Yogibo teardrop beanbags, cubby shelving, and a bold felt-and-paint mural, pictured above. At the ISLA, students and architects brightened their Safe Space, a former classroom, with new curtains, lighting, and seating from Knoll. The fixtures, paint, and furnishings were mostly donated or bought at a discount. In the South Bronx, Daniel Kidd, founder of DEMO Architecture and a professional musician, collaborated with students at Longwood Preparatory High School to build an audio booth so students could record and share music. The studio connects students to neighborhood's musical heritage—the South Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop—and gives them an outlet to bond over music. In addition to PRO and DEMO Architecture, Kubey worked with ATTN-ATTN, Common Bond Design, Creative Art Works, and Homepolish on MHxD wellness rooms at other high schools. At all sites, graphic designers at Hyperakt partnered with two students from each school to brand the spaces, with students designing posters to promote their new facilities and increase mental health awareness.
Placeholder Alt Text

This "barn" uses traditional red wooden planks and copper to produce a striking, long lasting facade

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. 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.” Both the Lamplighter Barn and Innovation Lab are set to open summer 2017. Resources Roofing manufacturer, facade fabricator and installer: Sterling Roof Systems Facade collaborators: Hill & Wilkinson
Placeholder Alt Text

Rural Indian school achieves net-zero

facadeplus_logo1
Brought to you with support from
A residence school recently completed in an Indian village roughly 90 miles away from Mumbai integrates passive strategies in the design of its highly ambitious yet modestly budgeted project. The campus of Avarsa Academy consists of seven similar buildings, each with classrooms on the first two floors, and a student dormitory and faculty residences on the upper two floors. The architects of the project, Mumbai-based Case Design, said the school “is uniquely positioned to take advantage of locally shared resources while establishing its own identity as a leader in the education and the development of young women in India.”
  • Facade Manufacturer Malekar Gharat, Pritesh Gharat
  • Architects Case Design Studio LLP
  • Facade Installer Rameshwar Bhadhwa from Mortar Constructions
  • Facade Consultants Case design Studio LLP (facade); Transsolar Inc. (Passive design and climate-engineering)
  • Location Lavale Village, Pune (India)
  • Date of Completion 2016
  • System Solar chimney, Earth ducts, Exposed thermal mass, and shading system
  • Products custom bamboo screen
Referencing local and universal examples of academic, domestic, public and sacred spaces, the project responds to site, program, and climate, addressing the needs of the community to provide a “sanctuary for learning.” The architects collaborated with Transsolar, an international climate engineering firm, to develop the passive climate strategy, which involves a facade design that shades the interior. The building envelope, coordinated with strategic interior program placement, is composed of recessed window walls and cantilevered reinforced concrete slabs. Locally-sourced bamboo screens span floor-to-floor and are composed of a series of vertical chutes with intermediate horizontal braces. One of the most compelling strategies developed by the team was to supply outside air through underground earth ducts. This eliminated unwanted noise from the campus while allowing for natural ventilation of the classrooms. For the structural frame of the building, exposed reinforced concrete construction was paired with locally-sourced stone to provide thermal mass in occupied spaces, thus producing a moderate, more consistent radiant temperature.   The air from all classrooms and living spaces passively transfers in three separate, centrally located “exhaust cavities” which are integrated into the structural core of the building and eventually extend out as solar chimneys above roof level. These chimneys, using solar heat from the sun, are designed to passively drive the entire air flow, and provide cooling, throughout the building. Transsolar said that these design strategies reduced initial construction cost by approximately 7% through elimination of mechanical systems, and reduced annual energy cost by 80% due to its completely passive design. A handful of solar water heaters provides hot water for showers and PV panels on the building roof supplies electricity for ceiling fans and electric lighting in the building, making it also a Net-zero Energy Building.
Placeholder Alt Text

JGMA overhauls a former Kmart for a progressive Chicago high school program

Before JGMA was given the job to design a new school for the Cristo Rey St. Martin College Prep (CRSM), it was working with students and faculty in design charrettes. The high school was looking for a design and an architect as progressive as its approach to education, which endeavors to have students function at college level by the time they graduate. On top of offering typical coursework, CRSM matches students with corporations; the students work for the corporations and in turn the corporations sponsor them. Now, the school is hoping to have a campus that lives up to its academic ambitions.

The path to a state-of-the-art school has not necessarily been clear. Currently located in a building in desperate need of repair and updating, CRSM has had no room to expand—even after the school bought a nearby abandoned Kmart store. It took working with the JGMA team to realize a design that would transform the banal nature of a big-box structure into a cohesive campus.

One of the first and most difficult challenges of the project was to remove the stigma of the big box and its not-so-appealing suburban surroundings: Seas of parking lots, strip malls, and fast-food joints surround the site. So JGMA worked to break up the monotony of the vast concrete lot and sterile facade of the building. “These students are used to getting hand-me-down everything,” noted JGMA designer Katie LaCourt. “Their current building is a hand-me-down. Overcoming this stigma associated with the big box was one of our first concerns.”

The artificially lighted interior also needed to be addressed. This came in the form of the biggest and most visible move in the project: plans for three large cuts to be taken out of the roof and facade of the building. These cuts will bring light into and throughout the building, interrupting the visual form of the 120,000-square-foot structure. Playing on the Kmart’s original decorated shed form, a second facade will be draped over the building, giving it a completely different appearance and character. Additionally, the former parking lot at the front of the building will be covered by a soccer field, distancing the building further from its big-box roots.

The large cuts will also provide common areas between the teaching spaces to create the feeling of a campus rather than a single building. Outside of the building, the planned landscaping mirrors these cuts. Long paths will extend from the front and the back of the building to provide outdoor learning areas and connect a marsh to the campus.

Though on track to begin construction by early spring 2017, the conversion process is a long one. Working to accommodate the school and its students, JGMA has divided the project into three phases. The first phase will involve converting 50,000 square feet of the floor area and making two of the designed cuts. This will allow the current 375 students to move into the new space. When the second phase is complete, the entire building will have been converted, and the school will be able to expand to its goal of 500 students. The third and final stage will be the landscaping, which will complete the transformation to an educational campus.

JGMA’s conversion of this empty Kmart is not the first of its kind, but it is indicative of changes happening in many of America’s suburbs. Many big boxes across the country, which for numerous reasons have closed or moved into new spaces, have begun to be redeveloped. In a few notable examples, large stores have been converted into city libraries. In Eden Prairie, Minnesota, BTR Architects converted a former grocery store into the county’s public library; just as for the Cristo Rey project, light and large expansive spaces were issues that had to be addressed. Others have been converted into fitness centers and go-kart tracks, and one even became a Spam museum. These conversions have achieved varied levels of success and innovation. When complete, Cristo Rey will arguably be one of the most ambitious.

Placeholder Alt Text

Developers add nursery school with playful multipurpose kitchen to Brooklyn development

Prospect-Lefferts Gardens was once referred to by locals as “Brooklyn’s best-kept secret.” Now, developments—many of which offer vistas across Prospect Park and onto downtown Manhattan—are shooting up as the area surges in popularity. One of those is The Parkline at 626 Flatbush Avenue between Fenimore and Hawthorne streets.

The 23-story building, backed by developer Hudson Inc., is the tallest in the neighborhood. It offers 254 units as part of a mixed-income “80/20” scheme (a development that is granted tax-exempt financing when at least 20 percent of the units are reserved for low-income earners).

Aside from the rental units, a restaurant with a glazed facade can be found on the ground floor, along with a bookstore. As per the “Community Facility” zoning code of the area, Hudson decided to include a school—an expansion of the nearby Maple Street School—into the development.

“We could easily have opted for a doctor’s office,” said principal Alison Novak. “Frankly, a doctor’s office might have paid more for the space. But having a nursery school, especially one based in the neighborhood with a stellar reputation, was more appealing in part because it is a more attractive use to residents of the building. We also recognized that it is more difficult to locate a school than a doctor’s office, and we had an opportunity to support a neighborhood institution.”

Maple Street School is located on the second floor of The Parkline and has been open since September. The preschool, designed by Brooklyn-based studios Barker Freeman Design Office architects and 4|MATIV, offers three classrooms on the west side, all connected in a linear fashion through sliding timber doors. Holding approximately 16 children each, the classrooms can open up to form larger spaces with adjacent rooms when needed.

Even when closed, however, the doors facilitate connections between classrooms. Windows, placed at varying heights and shapes, can be found. Novak remarked how her daughter, who attends the school, interacts with friends on the other side, often knocking on and peering through the low-level windows. Around the north and west perimeter, large windows have also been included.

Inside each classroom, children have access to bathrooms and “play-sinks.” Alexandra Barker of Barker Freeman described how the sinks connect the inside and outside of the bathrooms. “The play-sinks store toys where the children can play, but on the other side is where they can wash after going to the bathroom,” said Barker. Situated in the classrooms themselves, the bespoke bathrooms prevent children from wandering astray when they need to go.

Another feature is a multipurpose kitchen area. Priya Patel of 4|MATIV said that a “big part of the curriculum is to teach kids through cooking.” Barker elaborated: “It’s a diverse space: At one level it acts as a kitchen-cafe area, whereas on another level kids can climb up and play. It also doubles up as an informal performance space and, due to its location, a gathering point that the whole school has access to. It was actually a big deal to decide that this was a specific space that wasn’t just the classrooms or lobby.”

Within this space, and indeed throughout much of the school, maple timber has been employed for flooring, cabinets, and other furniture, as well as a “peg board” (a board with moveable pegs that children can play with in the lobby when being dropped off or collected). With its white interior walls—left intentionally blank so children can display their artwork on them—and generous amounts of daylight, the school has a Scandinavian feel to it. “We wanted to materially represent Maple Street,” said Barker. “This was a big choice to use maple flooring, as opposed to something that would have perhaps been easier.”

Resources

Engineered Maple flooring: Kährs Contractors: Bolt Construction Developer: The Hudson Companies Design Architects: Barker Freeman Design Office 4|Mativ Design Studio
Placeholder Alt Text

Studio Gang proposes net-zero school with three-acre urban farm (complete with its own goat)

In the near future, students at the Academy for Global Citizenship will learn firsthand how a net-zero building works, as their campus will collect enough solar power to be completely off the grid. Chances are, though, the thing they will remember most distinctly about their unconventional school will be that it included a working farm, complete with a goat.

The Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) on the Southwest Side of Chicago is already unlike nearly any other K-8 school around. Once it moves out of its now-cramped makeshift space into a brand-new, Studio Gang–designed campus, it will be truly one of a kind.

The charter school, as the name would suggest, was conceived with a focus on global stewardship and was in dire need of a space that better reflected its pedagogy and ambitions. With this charge, Chicago- and New York–based Studio Gang set out to produce a campus that would be a productive space for students, faculty, and the surrounding community. Conceived as a series of flexible “neighborhoods” with indoor and outdoor learning environments, the project is designed without typical circulation space. Rather, students will walk through “Wonder Paths” that wind fluidly though indoors and outdoors. Along these paths students will encounter laboratories, presentation spaces, learning stations, and play areas. A central courtyard will connect all of these diverse programs.

The main structure’s design takes cues from industrial building typologies to maximize natural light and solar collection. A sawtooth roofline is set at the optimal angle for solar power, while allowing copious amounts of north light into the learning spaces. Yet the passive and active solar aspects of the project are only part of the school’s sustainability goals. Perhaps the most notable of the school’s amenities is a three-acre urban farm. Along with producing its own power, the school will also produce a portion of its own food. Students will help grow breakfast and lunch for their classmates. The school believes the understanding of agriculture is an important part both of being a global citizen and of creating one’s relationship to food. Anchoring the farm is a greenhouse-barn where classes and presentations can be held for students and the community. “The whole thing is really all about growing a power- and food-conscious community and designing a replicable system that can be used by other schools in the future,” firm founder Jeanne Gang said. Working with Studio Gang on the project are Chicago-based landscape architects site design group, ltd. and New York–based environmental consultants Atelier Ten. The school will be completely one of a kind when finished, but the design is specifically done in such a way that it can be repeated around the world. To do so, prefabricated systems and readily accessible materials are being specified. While Studio Gang is garnering international attention for soaring skyscrapers, it continues to work on smaller-scale projects for socially minded clients. The Academy for Global Citizenship adds to the firm’s list of educational and community projects that includes the award-winning Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership, the SOS Children’s Villages Lavezzorio Community Center, and the Columbia College Chicago Media Production Center.