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Today’s neighborhood schools reflect more complex expectations than ever before. Open day and night, they are designed to acknowledge social patterns in new ways. They address a multi-modal world. They function as community centers. Pedagogy increasingly is designed to reflect the many ways children learn, so school design is responding, anticipating teaching and learning opportunities as much outside the classroom as in it. Increasingly, schools are being shaped by evidence regarding the effects of the physical environment on learning, human development, and general well-being. A goal of this project was to capture and reveal this new and old reality in its functioning, form, and expression.
Located in a transitional zone between industrial, highway, and urban residential areas, the building settles into its sloping site, allowing multiple at-grade entrances on two levels. Efficient in plan, the school is designed as a series of neighborhoods that respect the need of the various age groups for a place they each see as their own.
Shared by all are common areas, organized around a central gymnasium. Creating an environment conducive to ‘situational awareness,’ extensive use of impact-resistant, sound-absorbing glass on the interior ensures that from the entrances to the school at both levels there are vistas through the school. After school, and in emergencies, the classroom neighborhoods can be separated from the common spaces, providing increased security and safety.
By defining itself as a distinct precinct in the neighborhood, scaled to suggest its civic responsibility and modulated to articulate the nature of its role in community life, the design of East Rock School symbolizes how its presence is a catalyst to strengthen the life of the neighborhood it was built to serve.