Around a Chestnut Tree 

Two white, compact volumes frame the existing historical building of the town’s elementary school to create a carefully calibrated ensemble of new and old.  These two flanking wings work to better define the front school courtyard and mark out separate access points to the two constituent schools. 

 

The adjacent centennial chestnut tree commands an important role not only within this newly reconfigured school courtyard, but also finds new ground in the white façade and beyond: delicate tracings overlay the elevations with leafy outlines to then reappear imprinted into the bare concrete walls within the building itself.  A strong contrast of materials mark the exterior and interiors of the school with an emphasis on tactile surfaces and robust materials able to hold their ground.

 

 

 

All the public and common programs shared between the two schools (multipurpose hall, administrative offices, library, changing areas, etc.) are found at the ground level and lower level while the remaining spaces of the schools are distributed across the upper three floors.  A zigzagging corridor connects the three volumes of the new school complex horizontally and pulls them together into one fluent didactic space.

The head-teacher of the school saw the renovation and addition of the school as an opportunity to review the school’s pedagogical approach and in turn worked to implement radically new teaching and learning methods.  A close collaboration between the architects and the school ensued.  

Every space of the school became an environment of learning whereby different kinds of spaces leaned towards different kinds of learning.  This dialogue between architecture and pedagogical content downplayed the classroom as the epicenter of learning and imagined corridors, niches and landings as informal, didactic venues.

Apertures, windows, sliding doors and glass walls were but a few of the architectural answers for a more communicative and agile place of learning.