Transforming traditional space into an innovative learning ecosystem
Academy of the City strives to nurture independent, self-reflective learners through a progressive curriculum of direct instruction, hands-on experiential learning, and inquiry-based approaches. The school’s space was cramped; students working in hallways demonstrated a clear need for breakout space to promote collaboration and self-guided learning. KSS studied multiple sites for an expansion of Academy of the City’s middle school. The selected site, an existing Catholic school, posed a challenge for the design team to transform the traditional space into an innovative learning ecosystem. The design opens up the existing structure and improves accessibility; coat closets are removed to expand the typical double loaded corridor into a large central corridor—the commons—that repeats on each floor. On the first floor, priority spaces including the multimedia lab, performance space, and dining are clustered around the commons. On the second floor, classrooms and a makerspace flank the commons. General classrooms, a science lab, art classroom, and lounge space surround the commons on the third floor. A newly installed elevator extends to the roof to accommodate a future phase of outdoor play space.
Academy of the City’s branding is woven throughout the building; blue accent walls, splashes of red throughout the corridors, and flooring patterns of red and blue foster school identity and pride, while assisting with wayfinding. Thoughtful restoration of tin ceilings uncovered in the classrooms preserves the building’s historic integrity. Transforming a traditional space to meet the needs of 21st Century learners supports the mission, vision, and curriculum of Academy of the City.