The spatial investigation of this project centers on the creation of a dispersed interior field condition which allows for a continuum with both the condition of the exterior landscape and the networked modern world in which the child learns. Tangential views and the prioritization of oblique spatial sequences disperse space and prioritize the subject by heightening the child’s desire to wander and explore while visually extending the space of the interior out to the landscape and sky beyond. Light enters through spaces between the roof planes and at folds that create clearstory conditions, further dispersing the spatial experience.
The school, for 120 children ages 2-8, is conceived by the client as a “one-room schoolhouse.” The resultant space is both linked by a diagonal view through the overlapping spaces of the classrooms, and divided by the structural lines of the beams overhead and the variegated exterior wall condition, extending the spaces of the site into the child’s world. The entry area hosts quiet activities that calm the child upon arrival, acting as a space of mediation between two “wings” that house the two different age groups of the school.
Roof planes subtly tilt against one another to let in light from above between their skewed forms, and to define the classroom spaces below 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 afternoon light. As the philosophy of the school is based on the Montessori teaching methodology, the spaces of the building are intended to allow the children to move freely through the space while visiting different disciplines. The scheme has multiple relationships to the exterior play areas with doors out from every area challenging traditional notions of “recess” through the extension of the interior learning spaces out to the landscape.
The shifting plan allows for a fragmented reading of the building that reduces the scale of the mass to be related to the scale of the child. It also reflects an attempt to prioritize the subjective; in order to be fully understood, the building’s spaces must be engaged and moved through. 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.
This project will be the first LEED certified school in Connecticut. Light through the clerestories mimics the existing forested site condition where light is brought into the site from above through the tree canopy. Overhangs, trellises and louvers on south, east and west facing windows help to keep out the hot summer sun. Large south facing glass and a thickened slab on grade help to extend the seasons in which heating is not required.