Houston ISD—Milby High School
Architect: Kirksey Architecture
Houston Independent School District’s Milby High School is a new facility surrounding and preserving a 1926 historically significant structure. The design incorporates 40,000-sf of renovation with 227,000 sf of new construction. The building program incorporates eight CTE programs that focus on project based, hands-on and linked learning. Site amenities include baseball, softball, soccer, football and practice fields, tennis courts and a walking track along the perimeter.
In the final design, the 1926 “heart” of the school was preserved and restored, while new construction, represented by north and south academic “wings,” wrapped around it, as if embracing the historical design. The connection between the old and new is represented by the flow of the design, and was preserved by use of materials, historic details, and supergraphics featuring historic drawings and articles. Interconnecting CTE spaces with regular academic spaces encourages cross-collaboration.
“Added value through connectivity of spaces, linked learning, community access, flexibility and shared use. The larger, assembly-type spaces can be adjusted to serve multiple functions. Adjacencies were intentionally planned and helped stretch the budget to accommodate as many needs as possible. Multiple building performance simulations were used during the design process to add value to the project and determine optimization strategies.”
Aspiring to honor the school’s history and minimize the environmental impacts of new construction, the restoration extends the life of nearly century-old materials. Natural light is abundant throughout, promoting healthy and productive learning environments with a connection to the outdoors. Low-emitting materials, indoor air quality monitoring, and a green housekeeping program ensure clean, healthy air. These are among the features that helped the school earn LEED Silver certification.
“The authenticity of this school needed to reflect its history and ties to the community. The context of place became increasingly important. Everyone had to pass through the historic promenade upon entrance. The context of the school was defined around the historic “heart”, with smaller learning communities surrounding it. Accessibility was key. Public access to shared spaces was crucial, as this school became everyone’s school.”
Through charrettes, visioning and town halls, the team created a consensus around the direction of the design. 21st century education meant allowing students to direct their own learning process, and to be inspired through making, seeing, and observing. “From concept to application” became a recurring theme for the CTE spaces. The principal’s desire was that students would gain the skills necessary through clear linkages to the core curriculum to develop and run their own businesses one day.
“Most high schools separate their CTE programs into other buildings, but this high school wanted flexible spaces from one end to the other, allowing for linked learning and interconnectivity – not ostracizing the CTE programs from the core curriculum. The transformation went from dark, closed-off spaces to increased visibility with more natural daylight. Classrooms are positioned around a learning commons that feature soft furniture for collaboration to foster the feeling of a “neighborhood.””
Star of Distinction Category Winner