© Cordogan Clark & Associates

Herget Middle School // Cordogan Clark & Associates

Aurora, IL, United States

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Text description provided by the architects.

Located on a 38-acre site in northwest Aurora, this new Middle School incorporates a “Heartland” theme in keeping with the site’s rural roots and the City of Aurora’s West Side zoning plan. The School was the first development within the City’s “Countryside Vision Plan’, which focuses on open-space protection and flood mitigation.
To meet the City’s sustainability based zoning plan, conservation design practices were sensitively employed to create a pedestrian and environmentally friendly learning campus design with student education in mind.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

Due to the flood plain that passes through the site, the design takes advantage of the natural topography of the land, utilizing natural plantings and the existing contours of the land to handle water runoff rather than using an artificial storm-water retention system. Rainwater movement throughout the facility was a key element for the layout and function of the site.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

Essentially, all rainwater from the roofs and parking lots first enter into several naturalized bio-infiltration Rain Gardens or naturalized swales prior to release to the detention basins. Maintenance guidelines were developed for the School District that outlined annual burning restoration regimes for the prairie and the Rain Gardens to promote a healthy ecosystem.
The site design is fully sustainable and ecologically sensitive, as it teaches respect for natural resources.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

Another example of sustainable practice includes the transformation of the existing farmhouses and barns on site into learning environments that supplement the main building. The physical character of the school is representative of the farming history and rural nature of the site and, in this way, connects the facility to the cultural context of the community.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

The metaphor of the American Heartland guided the design of the school. Sitting like a heroic, modern farmhouse, the school is organized around a bent axis –opening arms taking in nature. The building provides a lot of daylight and maintains views of the land outside including the forest preserve just west of the site.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

The building’s shape and rooflines recall the farmhouses and barns that were once the only structures in the area. The interpretive large barn roof folding asymmetrically over the Central Hall responds to the north sun light and exterior views. Industrial and agricultural materials are used to emphasize this metaphor, including the incorporation of field stone, brick, corrugated metal, and standing seam metal.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

The metaphor continues through the recreation of the four different scales of experience that make up this American legacy: private, shared, community, and frontier. The design creates spaces for learning at each scale of experience. The design of this 850-student school is very flexible and adaptable to new teaching strategies as they evolve.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

The building is a single-story, brick structure with two wings, each with a distinctive use. One contains academic spaces, including six clusters of classrooms. The clusters follow the “school within a school” concept containing one science lab and four classrooms configured around a shared resource area. The second wing houses administrative offices, the cafeteria, gymnasium, and art and music spaces.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

Herget Middle School was designed to provide a learning environment capable of delivering the best of what middle school education offers – curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory. Every learning space supports multiple learning and teaching approaches. Six classroom clusters are arranged around a Central Hall. This community-scaled space presents opportunities for communal learning through its library, technology center, life skills lab, process lab, science preparation room, and spontaneous gathering spaces.

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

© Cordogan Clark & Associates

The classroom clusters represent private learning and are themed around six educational programs: art, library, science, technology, student services, and Aurora University’s School of Education satellite. School District 129 had the fortune collaborative support and involvement of the City of Aurora and several community members throughout the design process, which resulted in the creation of a valuable community resource.

The school contains spaces that expand the existing partnership between the School District and Aurora University, including a university classroom and support space to be used by the University for the preparation of future teachers as well as continual teacher professional development. The school also includes a fitness center, co-developed with the YMCA.

This center is available to the students during the school day and to the wider community during the evenings and weekends. The design evolved from a collaborative planning process including input from students, teachers, board members, and community representatives in addition to the architectural team. Project constraints such as educational delivery methods, size, budget, jurisdictional requirements, and timelines were guiding factors in the development of this successful middle school for the West Aurora School District #129.

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