The project explores surprise and discovery over time in a compact yet internally very transparent and deliberately porous structure. The notion of non-linear learning is embodied in the variety of meandering paths available throughout the building, gradually revealing different spaces, those close and those far away. Transparency pervades the building. It is both a design tool used to amplify the interior experiential quality, as well as an “educational transparency”, designed to foster easy collaboration and an overall sense of community.
The space flows in both horizontal and vertical directions, revealing the depth achieved by straddling the grades. The topography helps to generate rich interior relationships. The site and the sky are brought deep into the building, through two interior courtyards of different character. The upper courtyard is more natural and the lower one more abstracted through the use of finer materials. The ever-changing light and sun travel throughout the interior, enlivening the materials and stimulating discovery over time.
In such an environment the dedicated and informal educational spaces are intertwined, enabling learning to happen everywhere and anywhere: in the classrooms, in the courtyard, under the stairs or at any other location inviting to an inquisitive student or a small group. The building is designed so that the longer you wander throughout the interior, the more opportunity you will have to find a space, moment and time to enjoy and remember.
Complying with the state protocol for sustainable schools, the building exceeds the equivalent of a LEED Silver design. Ardmore Elementary employs a highly efficient earth-coupled heat pump system. Combined with a super insulated envelope; daylighting windows, clerestories, and skylights; switched lighting in classrooms and automatically dimmed lighting in public spaces; the building has achieved an annual EUI of 19.4 KBtu in its first year of operation. Additionally, the design utilized high percentages of recycled and locally produced products, diverted over 80% of demolition and construction waste to recycling, and preserved sensitive wetland and stream areas on the site.