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Although it only takes months to build a school, these slate-clad façades were millions of years in the making. Slate is formed underground, over millennia, as high temperatures and tectonic pressure compress rock layers into monolithic blocks. Slates, as we know them, are created by striking these blocks on edge, separating the layers into thin sheets which can be used for siding, roofing and flooring.
Slate requires little maintenance and can withstand years of abuse, even at the hands of the most rambunctious students, making it the perfect material to specify in your next elementary school or lecture hall. Not convinced? Check out these seven striking façades that prove slate is worth the wait:
The Sawyer Library, situated at the heart of the Williams College campus, contains the school’s book collection and main reading room along with a variety of classrooms and study spaces. The serrated façade, clad in Vermont slate, protects the stacks from direct sunlight while angling views out toward the Berkshire Mountains. The use of natural slate is a nod to both the verdant scenery and the slate-shingled roofs of the neighboring buildings.
This primary school extension, designed by Savioz Fabrizzi Architects, takes a tongue-in-cheek approach to local building vernacular. A poured concrete cafeteria blends in seamlessly with the existing concrete structure and supports a two-story classroom building, clad entirely in gray slate. The superstructure’s asymmetric gable, oversized windows and ubiquitous slate shingles parody the surrounding architecture, creating a façade that is both unique and familiar.
This high school addition features new classroom wings, finished in vertical wood boards, organized around a slate-shingled auditorium. These natural materials were selected to complement the brickwork of the original building. In adherence to this earthy color scheme, the steel columns and aluminum window frames have been painted deep shades of red and orange.
The Doering Center is located on the Bryn Athyn College campus, across from a historic stone cathedral. The façades are a combination of masonry and glazing which, according to the architects, give the building the appearance “of a geode cracked open.” The entrance is defined by a mortar-less slate rain screen, which calls to mind the stonework of the cathedral and creates continuity between the slate-roofed exterior and the slate-floored interior.
This 600-student elementary school is composed of four volumes, clad in slabs of rough-hewn slate, which support a perpendicular volume of polished marble. This massing forms a series of courtyards and sheltered patios for children to play in. The contrasting black slate and white marble, both harvested from the region, emphasize the building’s composition.
Inspired by nature, the façade of Marecollege features a wooden brise soleil in a leaf-and-stem motif. Furthering this organic expression, the entrance hall, cafeteria and auditorium are contained in bulbous volumes of variegated slate.
This music and dance school is located in Gournay-en-Bray, a historic French town, on the site of a former factory. A material palette of slate shingles and perforated copper panels reflects the traditional architecture of the region and the industrial past of the site. The Canadian slate and weathered copper give the façade a purple hue, referencing the colorful prairie flowers which grow around the building.
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