Comprehensive Design Studio - Spring 2010 // Sketchup + Photoshop + AutoCAD // 10 weeks
To play not only requires the necessary area, but spaces that are made to provoke the imagination, drawing out inner creativity and playfulness.
The core of this design is based upon the conceptual idea of a child laying on a hillside, daydreaming in the shadow of a tree. By following this ideal, the courtyard school creates a peaceful sense of isolation from the activity of the surrounding city. This courtyard school, located on the eastern edge of Downtown Kansas City, is buried into a bluff overlooking the West Bottoms and Missouri River.
A minimal footprint on the site was used to maximize green space for the students and neighborhood, in effect creating an extension of the public park to the north.
This strong interaction with the site allows the roof to become a large community garden and park space, encouraging the school to become a gathering point for the community.
The layering of the building programs creates an assortment of usable outdoor spaces for the students, most specifically playdecks for each of the upper classes. The way that the programmatic spaces flow across various boundaries is best shown by the two artificial slopes in the center of the courtyard. The large slope houses the school’s performance hall, including a stage, seating and music room, which provides an evocative space for artistic expression. The green sloping roof above the performance hall would be used as an excellent setting for outdoor play and education.
The natural lighting in the classrooms is supplemented by a series of skylights, placed on the roof and the playdecks These areas also include planter boxes for the students to grow produce that would then be used as part of their school meals. As part of the Montessori curriculum, the students would be taught how to prepare snacks and meals through practice with their teachers, These classroom cooking lessons would provide a strong foundation for a lifetime of better nutritional practices.
The main entry was designed to help new students to feel excited and energized about the educational environment they're entering. An open window to the administrative offices in this space extends a sense of comfort to the parents of new students and allows bonds to quickly form between the families and the staff.
A flexible dance studio showcases a diffused, abstracted view of the playgrounds, allowing ample light and color into the space while also maintaining a sense of privacy and comfort for shy students. A rotating group of visiting local dancers and artists would provide engaging lessons and a strong connection with the surrounding community.
The library is located on the north facade in order to provide indirect daylight, ideal for reading and studying. Built-in shelving doubles as a series of dynamic reading nooks as well as an organizational device, with older grades finding their reading materials on the higher shelves.
This project included the creation of a series of technical details, and due to my chosen focus on sustainability and materiality, I closely followed the Passivhaus standards for high-efficiency construction that are used throughout Europe. The extra insulation, sustainable materials and efficient building seals create a highly-comfortable and stable learning environment.