Maryann Thompson Architects was called to create a new home for the Atrium School, a K-8 program with a unique educational philosophy. This project calls for the conversion of an open warehouse structure on a limited site in a densely populated residential area. Because the parcel is long and narrow, it presents specific challenges to the arrangement of parking fields and green space and the movement of pedestrian and vehicular traffic through the site. A satisfying resolution was achieved by rethinking the building's orientation on the site. Rather that make use of the building's current entrance, which faces a main thoroughfare, the school's entrance and vehicular access is from the rear of the site. By creating an alternate entry sequence, the child approaches the school through a landscape garden rather than a highly trafficked street. Cars are routed in a one-way pattern through the site to minimize the school's intrusion in the community and to reduce delays during drop-off and pick-up. A parking area is incorporated on the far side of the site that maximizes the available green space.

Conversion of the warehouse to a school required that the site be re-zoned from commercial to educational use. The process involves obtaining approval from planning and zoning boards, as well as a period of community input. Several abutters who would be directly impacted by the increase in vehicular traffic initially objected to the conversion. This project was completed within a restrictive design and construction time frame under 10 months.

We open the dark and enclosed warehouse space through extensive glazing that introduces affords ample daylighting and cross-ventilation. Dependency on daylighting versus artificial light allows the child to experience the changing weather patterns and seasons on the building's exterior.

Honor Award for Design Excellence, Atrium School, K-12 Facilities Design Awards, Boston Society of Architects.

Photo Credits:

Anton Grassl/Esto