Site: The four-story school is conceived as a great retaining wall running north/south on a rocky knoll, defining terraced playground areas on lower and upper levels for use by different aged children. Distinguished by an old stone wall encircling its perimeter and dramatic views of the city to the south and west, the site is crowned on its upper eastern half while the western portion descends steeply toward the city beyond. Parking and bus loading is situated to the north along the only available site access point and is overlooked by the building’s main entry.
Innovation: Innovative approaches underlie all aspects of the school. The educational program includes a partnership with Worcester Polytechnic Institute, UMASS Medical Center, and Anna Maria College that provide valuable resources and teachers to the school. Expanded programs for preschool and extended day care, along with community use of the recreational facilities support activities all-day long.
The building design avoids charming and child-like stereotypes common in school architecture. Rather, it is a serious building that leaves the opportunity for fun up to its inhabitants. The design team worked with the school’s future students to fabricate over three hundred tiles that are now incorporated into the building’s facade.
Building Strategy: The four-story school is conceived as a great retaining wall, set into a dramatic hilltop site, amid a neighborhood of single and two family houses overlooking downtown. The principal academic spaces are located in a four-story block oriented toward the city to the west. This wing is visible throughout the city and is conceived as a large-scale public facade to convey the building’s civic importance. An embedded tower at the top floor contains a two-story high library — the building’s primary symbol of learning, which glows as a civic beacon at night.