Walking the Halls


Institutions, yes. Institutional, no.

Just as a rise in occupant productivity, health and comfort has been correlated to green building attributes of daylighting, low VOC materials and natural ventilation, the effect of physical space on student achievement and performance in schools has been given much attention. Research shows that the school facilities do impact student achievement as well as attendance rates and mental attitude. Considerations given to design elements outside the classroom, such as those around patterns of movement and circulation are among those key to establishing an environment conducive to student achievement and performance.

The school corridors featured on these pages have student interests at the fore. Designers have created clear points of reference with masonry details. Wide corridors and gentle curves improve orientation and ease circulation movement and flow. Public areas and gathering spaces foster a sense of community and unity though the use of school colors and other commonalties. Use of color impacting mood and stimulating brain activity needn’t be limited to paint colors. Schools still benefit from masonry’s durability and low maintenance, but also its wide range of materials and design flexibility.

Earth Science The design of the Interdistrict Discovery Magnet School (IDMS) supports the earth science-themed preK-8 facility by integrating the curriculum and mission of the school into the location, original artwork, architecture and every visible element of the building. The focus on ecological awareness – and the design team’s commitment to green building – required a highly sustainable design for the school. Also, Svigals + Partners incorporates original artwork into the architecture of all projects. For schools, the artwork is always tied to the curriculum or the community’s heritage, following the firm’s mission for educational projects of creating buildings that teach. For IDMS, masonry products are used strategically to support these goals.

Concrete masonry helped the design team to create an interior and exterior appearance recalling the Earth’s geological strata, using variations in block colors and textures. Bands of masonry strata on the exterior create a clear reference to the weathered rock entrance. This mosaic-like approach allowed the integration of future fossils – bas-relief images of cassette tapes and other common objects created by the school children themselves. This fossil record builds environmental awareness and alerts the students to their position in history.

As a durable, locally-produced and sustainable material, concrete masonry helped IDMS achieve LEED Gold certification. Durability proved appropriate for varying site conditions, as well as an easily-maintained asset for the school district. Efficient design will save the district and city upwards of $100,000 annually in operating costs.

Curving walls, made possible in part by the masonry products’ flexibility, allowed the design to respond thematically to the site, which is adjacent to protected wetlands. Gentle incorporation of concrete masonry in curvilinear form creates a dialogue between the surrounding natural, flowing organic forms and the building itself. ~ Julia McFadden, AIA

Fresh Face A new Master Plan transformed the 60-yearold Franklin High School into a 21st Century learning environment. A new drop-off plaza and administration building create a fresh sense of entry for the aging campus. To highlight the administrative space adjacent to the entry plaza, the design team wanted to give it a distinctive look and texture while maintaining the client’s strict requirements for durable and maintenance-free materials. Concrete masonry units, in the school colors of green and yellow, are utilized both indoors and out to make the administrative space seem like a self-contained block in contrast with the other areas of the building, which also contains classrooms and student spaces. The same CMU are used in benches, planters and landscaping walls throughout the site to provide continuity between the existing campus buildings and the new facilities.

The project recently earned Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) Verified Status New classroom and administrative buildings incorporate numerous sustainable features, related to the building envelope and the building as a whole. The decision to utilize concrete masonry fulfilled the client’s design and performance criteria and contributed to the building surpassing California’s Title 24 energy efficiency standards by nearly 25%. ~Brian Bell, AIA, LEED AP

Cultural Identity At Back of the Yards College Preparatory High School, STL Architects wanted the building to acknowledge both its Chicago neighborhood and the Hispanic identity of its population without resorting to literal representations. To do so, STL identified 19 Central and South American countries, each with its own identity, culture and traditions, from which the student body trace their roots.

Considering this view of the school population, a non-representational expression of this broad multinational background was established. Colors of the Chicago flag and the national flags of the identified countries were extracted, results tabulated and a value assigned to each color based on the number of flags in which it occurred. The weighted pattern that emerged was randomized and became a visual DNA of the nationalities – a kaleidoscopic multi-national expression of the cultural identity of the neighbor hood – and formed the basis of the school’s appreciation of this identity.

The school is organized into three volumes representing the Mind (Academics), Body (Athletics) and Spirit (Arts). Structural glazed tile (hollow masonry units) murals are placed at the end of each volume and feature the colors of the visual DNA, in the proscribed proportions, but in random patterns. These murals capture lively community’s pulse and become its identity. The main entry features a massive natural stone portal into a three-story lobby. The eye is drawn through the glass façade to the colorful glazed mural beyond.

In contrast to the vibrant murals, general interiors are simple and understated, promoting a culture of calm mindfulness. Each floor level is presented in white-on- white with a single color block at room entries, serving as a visual locator. The resultant building is a clean design that speaks to the heritage of its occupants yet feels fresh, contemporary and exciting. ~ Tracy Susanne Salvia, LEED AP BC+D

Live help