Whitehouse ISD—Mozelle Brown Elementary
Architect: Harris Craig Architects
A new elementary on a new site that centralized the school with the students it serves. Designed with its rural surroundings in mind, it situates off main access roads to provide a park-like setting. The site sculpted the building and is revealed through apertures and raised “nodes” filling spaces with natural light. Relying on direct feedback from teachers and administration, the new school provides a variety of unique educational spaces to allow teachers to reach students in thoughtful ways.
This new Pre-K – 5th Elementary is sited centrally to the community it serves. The design uses natural site topography to form engaging teaching spaces while allowing for expected growth. The central corridor is defined inside and out by a series of light-filled nodes. This corridor contains a variety of flexible teaching spaces with access to intimate outside learning areas and connects to the three main teaching corridors. Centralized community shared spaces allow the school to be multi-use.
In addition to using long-term low maintenance, durable materials, this project leveraged its large site to its advantage, letting the landscape shape the design of the building. A compacted central corridor designed for maximum daylighting while using building forms for shading for reduced solar heat gain in the most used areas. Additionally, the existing school was repurposed into a new administration center to combine the scattered district staff into one space.
The need for this new school came from a study of shifting demographics and community growth. The district realized existing attendance zones no longer served satisfactorily and decided to build a school in the neighborhood it served. We analyzed sites and provided guidance through annexation in an adjacent city to ensure the school had police and fire protection. This site is now the center of growth with new development already springing up adjacent to the school property.
The design was iterated with end-user groups, facilitated through questionnaire forms and design charettes. The results showed that the various grades needed slightly different designs to accommodate the different levels of learning occurring in their respective spaces. The three fanned teaching wings attached to a compact central corridor that allows for shorter walk-paths and better teacher observation, and the ability to split the group activities from the learning corridors.
Using feedback from the district, varying shared and flexible classrooms, including the maker’s space, media center, computer lab, and exterior teaching spaces were created and combine to create many options for teaching in unique ways. These spaces are set up to serve students from one-on-one instruction, to small groups, to whole class as necessary and are dispersed throughout the school for flexibility in scheduling and use.
Star of Distinction Category Winner