Houston ISD—Condit Elementary School
Architect: VLK Architects
Replacing a school that served the community for over 100 years, this new, compact, two-story transformational learning environment is visually open, making excellent use of space. The exterior and interior design expresses the desire of the community for a nontraditional school. The design provides a variety of choices for task focus or casual spaces, giving students responsibility for their own learning, while teachers facilitate, embracing the intense connection between school and community.
Various learning zones are created to accommodate each student’s learning preference, be it focused, active or collaborative. The open design provides connectivity, transparency, and inclusivity while promoting informal supervision. Dining becomes a collaboration and performance space shared with the community.The library transforms into an extension of the small learning communities, making it available to everyone. Exterior spaces typically reserved for play become spaces for active learning.
The highly efficient use of square footage resulted in a smaller building than similarly programmed schools. Using the existing site prevented the need for the district to buy additional land in a densely packed suburban area. The library is not only dedicated to books, but also can be easily adapted to changes in pedagogy with the influence of technology, creating a flexible space. Materials are simple and cost effective, but utilized in a creative way to add character to the school.
Building footprint is highly compact, resulting in over 80% of the building being dedicated to learning spaces. The smaller size of the building minimizes the impact on the site and the environment. Designed to be LEED Silver, every space is exposed to natural daylight and is cooled by an enhanced HVAC system. Materials are cost effective and easily maintained while locally and sustainably sourced. Utilizing the existing site fostered a positive influence within the densely packed community.
A showcase for the district, the building serves the community by making available the gym, cafetorium, and outdoor spaces. Small learning communities inspire a sense of belonging and community. The design embodies the desires of the community for a transformational education space, yet reflective of the history of the 100 year old school it replaces. Daily interaction with community members is commonplace.
The vision was initiated by community stakeholders in a design charrette to develop strategies that supported goals to inspire, celebrate, and create. Goals to maintain the heritage of 100 years while being innovative were at the forefront of discussions. Bi- monthly meetings with the Project Advisory Team comprised of community members, parents, teachers and administrators, served to solidify the vision throughout the design process and ensure goal attainment.
Unique spaces provide inspiration for learning from individual to collaborative. From indoor personal spaces to collaborative outdoor gardens, education happens everywhere and at any time. The instructional model and the building design support hands- on learning tailored to individual learning styles that allow students to develop their critical thinking, problem solving, and presentation skills through collaborative and team-based opportunities.
Star of Distinction Category Winner