St. Thomas the Apostle School
St, Thomas the Apostle SchoolEdit profile
St. Thomas is a K-8 catholic grade school in a densely populated part of the city on an extremely small site. The basic strategy is to accomplish a maximum effect with resourceful design strategies. The project is extremely cost effective and employed strategies of economy of means by making every constraint on the project into an architectural opportunity. The new playground is stacked over parking and a new driveway is wrapped around the perimeter of the site simultaneously providing a fire lane, a buffer for school community, and diffusing local traffic congestion by providing a new on site drop-off. The new Gym/Multi-Purpose Room, Library and Art Room are located on the West side of the site to both provide shade for the aftercare program on the playground in the afternoon and to connect via a bridge to the renovated existing 3 story school building. The driveway moves around the site, connects down to the parking below, and then rises up to a new, on-site student drop-off location in front of the new Porch. Off-the-shelf Vulcraft trusses are cantilevered from the span of the gym/multipurpose room to create shaded outdoor gathering space in this hot part of the city. A new pedestrian entry for students and families occurs along a ramp (an over-scaled, required handicap ramp) that rises up to the middle of the site and arrives in a large Urban Porch. This space will become a new nexus for the school, functioning in a variety of different ways including; accommodating an outdoor lunchroom, entry to the school, entry to the library, a second story balcony accessed from the new art room and existing classrooms above. The balcony will also provide become a pulpit / lectern for the larger religious occasions such as Easter. The new building is separated from the existing one to accommodate a phased construction and to allow light to reach the former basement of the existing building. The basement of the existing building was excavated providing new outdoor play areas for K, 1st, 2nd grades that is buffered from the older kids. Bridges, a stair and a new elevator (which upgrades ADA for the existing building) connect the existing building with the new building and engage the covered outdoor space. During weekday school use, a large landscaped forecourt fronts the street and extends the playground, while on the weekends it also accommodates additional parking. A simple palate of cost effective materials includes galvanized metal mesh guardrails and ceiling panels, corrugated metal siding, cement plaster and exposed concrete. The Urban Porch provides a new identity for the school and St. Thomas parish within the City and it is linked back to the parish public street via the large ramp.