The concept of my design was to enable students to explore their education by allowing them to discover what they want to learn rather than forcing them into a prescribed curriculum. This was accomplished primarily through the organization of the clusters and the circulation in the atrium. The clusters are organized so each has one homeroom, with a backyard, and four classrooms. There are two clusters and one project space per floor. There are three upper floors that contain clusters and project spaces and three lower floors that contain the rest of the program, including a gym, theater, band and drama rooms, administration, library, cafeteria and kitchen, an entrance to below ground parking, and a boiler room.
In the three upper floors, the project spaces are placed on each floor in such a way so as to allow direct visual communication across the atrium to the other project spaces. This is possible because the project spaces are completely open to the atrium and the rest of the circulation. The project spaces are made to function like a studio – an open place to perform experiments of any kind: scientific, artistic, or somewhere in between. The openness and visual communication across the atrium allows for an exchange of these experimental ideas between the students. Thus, one child may be in his project space, see something another student is doing in another project space, travel across and around the atrium to have a closer look, and return to his project space to test this new idea he has gotten. This ability to explore is further aided by the cross circulation within the atrium.
The circulation flows from the open atrium to the homerooms and finally to the classrooms and project spaces. This places importance on the homerooms as a comfortable home base for the students to return to throughout the day. It also enables children to easily (and often time necessarily) travel across the atrium on one of the various “walks” to other’s homerooms. This creates further interaction between the students in different homerooms who use different project spaces. Overall, this arrangement of the clusters, project spaces, and atrium “walks” enables an exchange of ideas, communication, collaboration, and exploration that subsequently allows children to discover what they want to learn and what they enjoy.
This idea of exploration is further supported by the treatment of the facade on the exterior of the building. The facade of the building is designed as shown (see first perspective image) in order to create the feeling of curiosity. Without curiosity, there is no desire for discovery and hence, no exploration. Thus, the top three floors of the building were covered with a slatted screen that hides classroom activities. However, at the same time, the screen is broken where the homerooms have their “backyards”. This suggests to someone looking at the building that those spaces are special and that something interesting is going on behind the screen, even if they do not know what. This is further supported by the way the roof wraps around the front of the building but leaves one corner exposed. Again, the building is somewhat hidden, but a piece is jutting out, drawing in students and the public in by suggesting something interesting is going on behind the facade. These movements create curiosity and pull people into the atrium, where they are confronted with openness, communication, and the exploratory pathways.
The green roof on top of the gym and theater add to the students’ ability to explore on a more interactive level. The green roof starts at the bottom of the atrium where it connects with the atrium’s greenscape, rises up to on top of gym, turns back, and again rises while above the theater to connect with the three cluster levels. The green roof then delves into the building and mimics the idea of the “walks” in the atrium. This green space pulls through the clusters, across the atrium, and to the other side of the clusters where the idea is continued down on the facade of the building in the form of the aluminum roof as seen on the main chunk of the building. This movement connects the exploratory nature of the “walks” in the atrium with this new circulation path on the greenscape that travels outdoors and allows children to explore the world around them. It also provides them with another space to interact, communicate their ideas, and learn from each other. This green roof ties together the entire project into an environment that supports discovery, communication, interaction, and exploration.