New Awesome Diggs For The Kiddo’s

10 11 2008

utaustin-charteres-4

We haven’t been here long enough to remember what the corner of Robert T. Martinez looked like three years ago, but we can guarantee you that it will look nothing like it soon enough. The Lance Armstrong Foundation is currently underway and has made some great headway in the last month or so. Now the UT Elementary will be getting a fresh redesign that will complete the intersections revitalization.

Located on a street corner of Austin, the new charter school will be a permanent replacement for the existing school, which is currently housed in nine temporary portables. The UT Elementary students, UT faculty and staff, UT Austin students and the East Austin community will use the permanent facility. Envisioned as a facility that enhances a progressive curriculum and blends into the urban fabric of the community, it will include classrooms for pre-kindergarten to 5th grade, a university classroom, learning labs, counseling and library/media centers, cafetorium/kitchen, gymnasium, administrative area, and outdoor gardens and play areas.

A key consideration for the project was implementing a design that fosters learning indicative of a school in the 21st century while complementing the character of the old East Austin community. Additional considerations were sustainability, connectivity and strategies for controlling solar heat gain. Designing for the building and landscaping to serve as teaching tools, as well as designing to draw students’ attention to nature, were also the project team’s goals.

The two-story building’s exterior skin combination includes carefully selected materials:

* terracotta clay masonry ties to the university
* composite wood acts as a solar heat gain controlling trellis
* glass serves as connectivity between immediate surroundings and harvests daylight
* corrugated metal roofing turns away heat and evokes traditional Central Texas, while large roof overhangs and covered porches reflect East Austin’s architectural style

Featuring directly accessed bathrooms and classrooms that open easily to the outdoors wherever possible, the building complex also forms a variety of courtyards and protected outdoor spaces, which act as an extension of the classroom and create connectivity. These outdoor learning spaces allow students to tend gardens, raise turtles and feed birds while the facility’s landscaping integrates it into the East Austin community and its front-yard gardens. On the second floor outside the library, a special garden/roof terrace overlooks the entire school and other play areas, and allows for additional learning from the natural processes of the school site. Roof rainwater can be harvested for potted plants that are grown to attract caterpillars, butterflies and hummingbirds, and the angle of sunlight can be monitored.

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