We’ve been hard at work on the design of a new art studio building for The White Mountain School in Bethlehem, NH, this winter and are happy to be able to share the new design with you. We previously mentioned…
School Building, Architect’s Eye
I was recently asked to comment on what the keys to a successful school building project are, by Educational Directions Incorporated. EDI is an international independent school consultant, and they published my comments in their newsletter, The Trustee’s Letter. I chose to focus on three key issues that we have found of paramount importance in our institutional projects:
MASTER PLAN: The biggest architectural challenge with school design projects is figuring out not only what is needed for the specific building / addition, but to think beyond that important but incomplete functional agenda, and to consider the campus as a whole as it relates to the school’s mission. What does it say about our school that we are building a fancy new gym when our classrooms or dorms are falling apart? How can we site a new structure so that it not only accommodates a specific function but also makes the campus as a whole more cohesive? As an example, we designed six new faculty / staff houses at St. Mark’s School in Southborough, MA, that not only housed faculty and staff and their families, but through our overall design strategy – both building and landscape – created a system that will guide the school’s planning for future new structures and also integrated a portion of the campus that had previously been disconnected from the main campus. It is critical that the school have a comprehensive master plan before embarking on additions / renovations / new construction, and this should be a live document that is updated regularly.
SUSTAINABILITY: All architectural projects must be sustainable regardless of scale or budget, not because it is “trendy” but because it is critical for the long term health and well-being of our schools and the students we teach. Designing and building sustainably can save money for a school both short term and long term. And it’s also the right thing to do! One really important consideration is to make sure that prior to adding a new building, to make sure the school’s existing buildings are as efficient and functional as absolutely possible. For example, don’t build a new dorm until all existing dorms are made as energy efficient, livable / comfortable, and fully utilized as possible.
MULTI-FUNCTIONALITY: In this day and age, when all schools are recovering from the Great Recession, I think it behooves all architects working with schools – as well as their clients, including not only school administrators but also Board committees – to plan for multi-functionality for all new spaces and buildings; flexibility must be designed into all projects. What other functions can this new building or addition accommodate besides what you are asking your architect to design?
- Will Ruhl