The design team was charged with the design of a new middle school for Frederick County, Virginia to replace the current in-town school. Along with the a new school campus the building would be a place to implement the student-centric and blended-learning strategies being promoted by a new superintendent and School Board. The design team created a vision with advocates from student, teacher, and citizen groups who shared their hopes for a school that would transform learning and their community. The site for this innovative middle school program was rightfully located in the under-served, rural Gainesboro Community in the northwest point of the County (and Commonwealth).
The vision developed through meetings and charrettes with the project advocates defined four qualities to incorporate into the design: student-centered, highly adaptable, community orientated, and high performing.
Educators appealed overwhelmingly for student-centered and highly adaptable spaces that would foster student creativity, collaboration, communication, and the making of things. The school is designed around 9 small learning communities (SLCs) each serving groups of 100 students. The SLCs are designed around three modes of 21st Century learning: know (instruction), understand (collaboration), and do (experiential). Replacing the traditional classroom are more open and configurable learning studios supplemented by high- and low-intensity labs, team rooms, and other student and teacher resources.
The heart of the school is an open, flexible, double height learning commons that includes a community room, open media center, IT genius bar, amphitheater stair, and a variety of educational displays. The cafeteria and physical education programs were reinvented (including an indoor running track, fitness studios, bouldering wall, and site walking trails) to promote long-term health and well-being and to act as community assets after hours.
Project advocates were passionate about providing a new school as both a source of pride for the often neglected communities around and including Gainesboro and as a resource for the community. The gymnasium and fitness loft allow for easy access by Parks & Recreation programs and residents can also use the Community Room for adult education classes or seminars in the evenings. Signage to identify site and landscape systems provides educational opportunities as well.
The design honors and celebrates the beauty of the site,, following the contours to balance cut-and-fill and limit impact. The project aims to be the first Net-Zero Water school in Virginia with no pipes entering or leaving the site. An artesian well provides high quality potable water, rainwater is harvested for non-potable water use, and a constructed wetland with drip disposal treats all waste on site. The building envelope has both a “wind-breaker” (continuous air barrier) and a wool sweater (3 1/2 inches to 5 inches of non-combustible mineral wool insulation). The building also employs high performance glazing and shading devices, a hybrid HVAC system that uses a geo-exchange, and low VOC materials.
Completed: 2016Architect of Record: Stantec ArchitectureProject Manager: Scott Kyle, AIA, LC, LEEDARCHITECT, STRUCTURAL ENGINEER, AND INTERIOR DESIGNER SHW Group (Now Stantec) CIVIL ENGINEER: Greenway Engineering Winchester, VA MPE ENGINEERS: 2rw Charlottesville, VA LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: JJM Design Charlottesville, VA KITCHEN CONSULTANT: Nyikos Associates Gaithersburg, MD COST ESTIMATOR: Downey & Scott Warrenton, VA ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEER: Aqua Nova Engineering Earlysville, VA THEATRICAL EQUIPMENT CONSULTANTS HARDWARE CONSULTANTS
Victoria Garden was originally envisioned as series of raised garden beds that would be shared by immediate neighbors. The open corner lot adjacent to its 1895 house’s adjoining property was a popular play field for many years to neighborhood kids. In its next incarnation as a garden, the property will not only serve as a learning and edible garden but also an oasis for pollinator insects, birds, and other wildlife. Perennial beds serve as Tree Guilds where plants and insects work together to support bird life and soil health, and provide tasty fruit.
The gardens are irrigated with 2800 gallons of capacity from rainwater that falls on the roof of the house. It is captured from downspouts and filters that feed a 1500 gallon cistern and a narrow 1000 gallon pond that runs the length of the garden and serves the soaker irrigation system automated with rain and temperature sensors and controls. All site lighting is 12 volt LED, with the majority integrated within landscape elements.
As an homage to the original 1895 site fencing, custom rails and cedar posts encircle the property along with iron gates and galvanized wire panel sections woven with cedar wood strips. Materials such as concrete demolished on site were repurposed as pavers to cover the cistern. Soapstone for the ponds and parking pavers came direct-from-quarry via Alberene Soapstone of Schuyler, Virginia. Permeable stone dust covers the remaining site that is not planted with perennial natives or annuals.
Honor Award, AIA Richmond 2008
Lobs & Lessons is a Community program of VCU promoting life skills development through the medium of the sport of tennis to disadvantaged youth in the Richmond metropolitan area. It has worked with more than 250 children since its inception in 2004 and now has the ability to serve an even greater population with its new headquarters and facilities. The facility is named in honor of the donors’ mothers, Mary and Frances, whose children Michael Frazier, president and CEO of Genworth, with his wife Elizabeth, made the new Center possible through their generosity.
The design of the Center was the culmination of many iterations, programs, and alternate site studies. The final site on the VCU campus was ideal from a programs standpoint, exposing kids to the university setting and university students and athletes to the children. However, the limited space created significant design challenges, namely, getting enough square feet of program space into a building while retaining enough site space for the tennis courts.
There were certainly trade-offs between the minimum court size and a minimum functional building footprint. A final 24 feet wide by 114 feet slender two-story building provided a challenge. Fortunately, we’ve got a model for that kind of proportion in the South that allows two structures to share a porch/breezeway and its called a dog trot. So in an homage to its venerable giant neighbor the Cary Street Gym (formerly the City’s public indoor market and auditorium), the dog trot, and its given rigid footprint, we came up with a design that proved to be an elegant solution to the program. Two, two-story spaces that allow differentiation between classrooms, offices, and meeting spaces, and the benefit of greater acoustical separation, and a building that serves as a gate to the tennis courts at the perimeter of the property.
The scale of the building is able to relate to the surrounding Oregon Hill neighborhood and the materials and form to the Gymnasium. The interior and exterior were designed with security and supervision in mind, while considering solar shading and daylighting for staff and students. The porches were designed to serve these functions as well as those of game watching platforms and scale elements that further tie them to the human-scaled neighborhood which the Center abuts.