Located in Portland’s Western Promenade Historic District, the new 34,000 SF Lower School was designed to reflect the scale and rhythm of neighboring residences. This includes a 6,000 SF renovation and an addition of 28,000 SF. The project merges the school’s 121-year history with its future, by incorporating its original building, Founders Hall with a new innovative, Passive House certified school building.
The new School replaces an outdated white brick addition built in 1968. Undersized and overused, the former addition was a confusing, multi-level conglomeration of several buildings that separated and isolated the school’s four learning age groups. The new building is designed to integrate the four groups (Early Childhood, K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 grades) and organize their “habitats” around a central lobby and atrium that runs right through the middle of the building, connecting the upper-level playground at the front entrance with the lower level playfield behind the building.
The new building has two wings joined by the atrium and a shared classroom, allowing natural daylight to flow into three sides of each classroom grouping. The building includes flexible learning spaces, as well as an art studio and after school spaces.
The building was designed to achieve three goals:
1. To create a sense of shared community that would allow all students, their families, and faculty to be together on a daily basis. The shared entrance lobby visually connects all four group classroom areas, and the stepped atrium that can seat 100 connects the entrance playground with the field behind the school.
2. To create a sense of identity and cohesiveness, fostering a sense of familiarity and security within each of the four classroom groupings. Each grouping has its own gathering space, cubbies, and bathrooms, with its own distinctive sense of place and relationship to the shared community spaces.
3. To create opportunities for small group and individual experiences that are age appropriate and encourage the children to develop greater confidence and self-expression. Windows that go to the floor that the children can literally walk into, climbing lofts that younger children can navigate for quiet time, corner windows and window seats that connect to the out-of-doors, and colorful spaces all encourage creativity.
The building has a high-performance exterior envelope and high efficiency mechanical and lighting systems. It is designed to achieve Passive House certification that reduces the energy use to 80% less than energy code requirements.