Atrium School

Watertown, Massachusetts

Atrium School looked to MTA to design its new home when the progressive K-6 program was forced to quickly find new facilities. This award-winning project called for the adaptive re-use of an open warehouse structure on a limited site in a densely populated residential area. Design and construction were successfully completed despite restrictive design, permitting, and construction constraints in less than 10 months’ time.

The parcel itself is long and narrow, and presented specific challenges including how best to arrange parking, accommodate green space, and orchestrate the movement of pedestrian and vehicular traffic through the site. The successful resolution rethinks the building’s orientation on the site. Rather than make use of the building’s existing entrance, which faces a main thoroughfare, the school’s entrance and vehicular access to the site were repositioned to the back of the campus. Cars are routed in a one-way pattern through the site to minimize the school’s intrusion upon the community and to reduce delays during drop-off and pick-up. Outdoor play space, shared with the community, replaces pavement where the site meets its residential neighbors.

Extensive new glazing and skylights provide ample daylight and cross-ventilation, transforming the previously dark and enclosed warehouse. Large glazed garage doors open the assembly areas to the playground and bring in southern light. The interior’s double-loaded corridor is enlivened by an unfolding hallway dotted with special window nook spaces for moments of rest and discovery.