Friday, February 6, 2009

Newport Heights Elementary School

Newport Heights Elementary is a beautiful, green addition to our community. And I love the way its designers made the decision to leave out all the warning signs that plague "old-school" public spaces which list rules in a very uncreative, unfriendly way. Subtlety is woven into the design here. Concrete borders/benches encourage sitting but discourage skateboarding--not with warnings but with small stainless steel raised strips. And this is a school that doesn't stop teaching at the classroom. What do the following photos tell you about what's going on inside? Click to enlarge any photo.

A hallway with child-level windows to see outside as you're walking past.

OK, now I'm curious! Isn't the point of education, (and architecture?) to get a person curious about his or her environment? Correct answer: Yes! What better place than at a school? Don't you wonder what's going on behind the small green window?

I moved around the building focusing on how they were able to drain rainwater from all these different roof pitches. I found this lovely courtyard garden with a circle of rocks as its central element. Looking up I spotted the arrow-like shape of a downspout, trained on the center of the rocks. On rainy days this becomes animated with rain pouring in a beautiful slender waterfall onto the rocks below, creating a
restful sight and sound sculpture for the users of the school's library.

Another view of the library courtyard, showing the windows angled toward the northern sky, bringing in light to this interior space. From the outside you can tell this is the protected heart of the school.

One of several downspouts directing rainwater to the planted areas.

A small amphitheatre for outdoor productions is surfaced with permeable grass, rather than concrete. Also kinder to tumbling small bodies...beyond is a grassy swale which becomes a creek in the rain.

The creek-like outlines on the concrete paths offset the strong vertical lines and angles of the building. This makes them more inviting and human, somehow. As if to say, walk this way...

Wonderfully elegant "treestumps" in concrete for children to sit on as they wait for the bus after school.

I love the proportions here--they seem to emphasize what's important: generous overhangs for rainyday afternoons waiting for the schoolbus, or for moms and dads waiting for the bell to ring. Windows for administrative staff to keep an eye on things from their desks; but also at a height conducive for children to peek in--wonder how the secretaries like this? It's friendly, though. And you know this is the main entry. Always important in a public space.

1 comment:

Gwon said...

My daughter goes to NHE (as did I many moons ago at the top of SE 56th) and the details you mentioned in your pictures are very observant! I had no idea about the rainspouts "recycling" the water via the channels in the concrete, or about the topography of the grassy area by the woods.

Super cool!