T h e N e w S a n d y H o o k S c h o o l
Wonderful schools are born out of a dynamic collaboration among all those who wish for the best possible learning environment for their children.
SBBAC Workshop 1 – 17.Oct.2013
In the first workshop, the SBBAC created a vision for the new Sandy Hook School. To facilitate discussion, members were divided into groups and responded to four questions:
- What will make the school a success?
- What makes learning fun?
- What qualities of your home would you like to find in your school?
- What makes Sandy Hook unique?
The range of responses assisted the group in outlining the Project Charter – a document which honed the key responses into a refined primary source for the Design Team to incorporate through each design phase of the project.
SBBAC Workshop 2 – 22.Oct.2013
This workshop focused on understanding the community and analyzing site schemes against the criteria established in workshop one. Each participant brought a photo of a place in the natural world that inspires them, and these were shared with each other in small group discussions. The Design Team presented their initial understanding of the community influences of Sandy Hook from a historical, ecological, and biophilic perspective. Initial presentations by specialty consultants introduced topics of concern for the design: site opportunities for connections to surroundings, orientation of site for taking advantage of sun orientation, geography of the site, advantageous natural features of the site, sustainability principles and opportunities. Following, small groups reviewed preliminary site concepts in terms of site opportunities, arrival and access sequence, connections to the surroundings, sun path, and community resources. All responses were shared when the group reconvened.
SBBAC Workshop 3 – 7.Nov.2013
Between the second and the third workshop, the Design Team enhanced the site design and programmatic layout of the building. During the workshop, participants analyzed the updated schemes using the design parameter scorecard – developed with elements from the Project Charter. The whole group proceeded to review the results of the small group activity to determine if there was consensus among any of the design parameter scorecard topics. The team also shared plans and photos from two schools that were toured by Sandy Hook School staff and discussed attributes worth pursuing in the design.
SBBAC Workshop 4 – 13.Nov.2013
After a brief review of the previous three workshops, the participants divided into groups. As each group rotated, members were presented evocative images relating to potential components and themes of a building, including:
Playing and eating
Traveling and community
Places for learning
The images sparked discussions of desirable and undesirable attributes.
SBBAC Workshop 5 – 25.Feb.2014
This primary purpose of this workshop was to update the committee on the design work that had evolved since the last meeting in November and discuss the next steps in the design process. The team reviewed the features, pros and cons of the three building schemes that had been presented to the Board of Education and Public Building & Site Commission in February: the Main Street, Courtyard, and Hybrid schemes. The design team proceeded to present the refined Main Street scheme which had been the expressed favorite by the BOE/PBSC. Next was a review of inspirational images culled from Newtown landmarks, the natural environment, and related architectural designs supporting the design ideas of:
• Rolling hills of Newtown area with steeples and towers peaking above the dense foliage
• Vernacular character of Newtown buildings
• Streams and forest interwoven through downtown Sandy Hook village
• Trees creating a canopy to define outdoor spaces
• Lofted buildings and treehouse-like spaces
The workshop ended with a slide show about Water, as a unifying element expressive of local identity and the potential in the design to illustrate rainwater as it travels and pools on and off the school site.
SBBAC Workshop 6 – 8.May.2014
This workshop was conducted with Sandy Hook school staff and SBBAC members. Participants shared a personal memory of an educational experience with nature. The introductory activity was followed by a discussion of the ways the students, staff, and community utilized the outdoor spaces of the previous school, and the types of activities that were held in the previous courtyard space. The group further explored what was successful and unsuccessful about the outdoor space of the previous school, and how students and staff would like to utilize the new school’s courtyards. Biophilia studies expert Steve Kellert gave a review of various principles that could be incorporated into the new school’s courtyards, focusing on activities that would inspire engagement, imagination, and wonder with the natural world. The design team proceeded to give a brief overview of the unique architectural features of each courtyard. The group came to consensus on a general programmatic theme for each courtyard:
• Courtyard A: Math and Science Discovery Zone
• Courtyard B: Music and Arts Interactive Performance Space
• Courtyard C: Literary outdoor classroom and Student Gardens
Participants were then divided into smaller groups to further organize and develop the specific activities that could be held within each themed courtyard. The meeting was concluded by the presentation of each group’s courtyard studies, with further development to be conducted by the design team.
SBBAC Workshop 7 – 27.May.2015
After a year’s interval, the committee re-convened to engage with Svigals + Partners on several integrated art elements which will be developed over the summer and fall of 2015. These elements include lightpole banners, weathervanes, a tile mosaic on the concrete cistern, a wall mural, and fiberglass relief sculptures for the lobby. During the collaborative session, participants traced shadows cast by illuminated natural objects, such as leaves, branches, and flowers. Guest workshop leader, Randall Hoyt, a graphic designer, conducted a similar exercise with 2nd – 4th grade students during a Kids Build! Session earlier in May. The resulting line drawings from both sessions will be used to create patterns for engraved wood panels that will adorn the front façade of the school. These wood panels evoke the age-old carvings made on tree trunks, denoting love trysts and “X was here.”
Svigals + Partners has facilitated some form of community participation with all our school projects over the last 20 years. Wonderful schools are born out of a dynamic collaboration among all those who wish for the best possible learning environment for their children. In this process of engagement with each other, the Design Team learns about the community, in ways that no book or article could impart, while participants develop a sense of ownership in the project that fosters innovative ideas. Together, we bring to life a school that embraces each child and expresses the spirit of the community for years to come.
After initial review with the Town we proposed several avenues of engaging with Sandy Hook and the larger Newtown community:
• Meet & Greet sessions
• Formation of an Advisory Committee
• Public design presentations to the Board of Education
• Project website (that encourages comments and questions to the Design Team)
• Kids Build! Program
Meet & Greet Sessions
These initial meetings were scheduled to bring together the Design Team and various groups and organizations identified by the Town as having a stake in the design of the new school. The Design Team will continue to meet periodically with these groups as the design develops to garner targeted feedback. In addition, members of these organizations were invited to serve on the Advisory Committee.
Newtown Sustainable Energy Committee
Sandy Hook Organization for Prosperity (S.H.O.P.)
Newtown Architect’s Collaborative
Sandy Hook School Parent Teacher Association (SHS PTA)
School Based Building Advisory Committee (SBBAC)
We have formed some version of a SBBAC on all of our school projects over the last 20 years. The SBBAC is comprised of a broad spectrum of individuals who have a connection and relationship to the proposed new school: Teachers, Administrators, Parents, sometimes Students, School District staff, Town officials, Neighbors/Citizens, Business People – along with our team of Architects, Engineers, and Specialty Consultants. After discussion with the Town, individuals were identified to comprise this committee, which will meet with the Design Team throughout the design and construction process.
The Design Team planned for an initial series of four workshops, held in October and November 2013, to collaboratively envision and define the overarching goals and aspirations for the school facility and review the site parameters and potential site arrangements.