The program for the Children’s School, a school for 60 children 2-8, was given to us as a “one room schoolhouse”. The two age groups of the school are housed in two classroom “wings,” both joined and separated by the entry area in which quiet activities are located to calm the child upon arrival.
Roof planes subtly tilt against one another to let in light from above between their skewed forms, and they define the classroom spaces below them without the use of walls. The younger children occupy the east-facing wing as they are only in school in the morning; the older children occupy the west wing to take advantage of western light. The scheme has multiple relationships to the exterior play areas with doors out from every classroom.
The shifting plan allows for a fragmented reading of the building that reduces the scale of the mass to be more in keeping with the scale of the child. It also prioritizes the subjective. In order to fully understand it, the building must be occupied and its spaces engaged. The spatial sequence is one of hide and reveal. The building offers a sense of journey and moments of epiphany for the child in its unfolding layers.
The Children’s School is designed to tread lightly on the earth and to heighten the students’ sense of relationship with the site. The building has a passive solar design with cross-ventilation in order to extend the seasons in which heating and cooling are not necessary. The school opens to the south to take in solar gain. Trellises and louvers on the south and west elevation are used to control the summer sun and dapple and modulate light entering the building. The building is largely slab on grade with a thickened floor slab. This thermal mass, coupled with the building’s orientation to the south, allows for maximum winter sun intake and heat storage at the coldest times of year. The awning windows allow for passive cooling to occur and eliminate the need for mechanical cooling systems.
The palette of natural and regional materials was selected primarily for its durability and sustainability. Interior finishes free of volatile compounds create a learning environment with the best possible air quality. When possible, recycled materials are also utilized, further enforcing the school’s commitment to the environment. When it rains, the single pitch roofs divert the water into scuppers which create waterfalls. Outdoor, covered spaces allow for more program areas without the burden of additional construction. In addition, the building is designed with a number of multi-functional spaces, further reducing construction and creating open spaces that allow for air flow. This project will be one of the first LEED Certified schools in Connecticut.