Just outside the Portland city limits, Rockwood is among the most diverse and lowest income areas in the Portland metro area. Three non-profit organizations—Open School, Boys & Girls Club of Portland, and New Avenues for Youth—came together to create a two-building, 3.5-acre non-profit campus to support the neighborhood’s community of underserved youth. The campus delivers places for kids of all ages to learn, play, and socialize. The concurrent development of the two buildings enabled the organizations to create shared facilities that reduced initial capital investment.
Open School East is an innovative college-prep school that prepares students who have struggled in traditional public school for success in college, career, and community. The design of the building reinforces the school’s model of support and openness: it provides eleven classrooms, two science labs, an art studio, and administrative spaces arranged on two floors around a double-height gathering space. A central, cascading bleacher stair of reclaimed wood anchors both floors and allows the school to come together as a community. The volumes that house the classrooms are shifted along the edges of the central space, creating informal seating nooks off the corridors at the building’s four corners. These spaces bring daylight into the hallways and accommodate small-group instruction, individual tutoring, and informal check-ins.
The new Rockwood Boys & Girls Club aims to attract and inspire youth after school and on weekends. The club includes a secure entry, bike parking, gym, kids’ café, learning center, youth and family services space, and an art studio. Club programs make use of the spaces during after school and weekend hours, and a synergy of program need enables Open School to use those areas during school hours.
The design of the Club balances safe outdoor spaces, visual transparency, and clear sightlines for safety with attractive, “grown-up” design. Protected ground floor spaces promote security; clerestory windows and skylights bring in additional daylight. The gym and classrooms on the ground floor feature fritted glass with supergraphics that allow views out but not in from the outside. A ribbon of yellow painted walls and ceilings leads members though the building and connects the major spaces, signaling to members that they are a part of a unified community.
The design incorporates an existing 7,000 square foot former garden center building as a dedicated teen center serving kids aged 13-18. The gabled steel of the existing structure’s roof line continues into the gym as a design feature. The teen center includes a music recording studio, computer labs, an “innovation station”, and a suspended “night sky” ceiling feature within the pitched roof of the reused structure that distinguishes it from the separate junior center (ages 6-12).
The final piece of the phased development, the New Avenues Youth Opportunity Center, opened in February 2018. Located in a tenant space within the Club building, the Center provides services and resources for homeless, at-risk, and foster youth.