The John G. Gilmartin Elementary School is a new 80,000-SF PreK-8, 550-student facility. The new school offers state-of-the-art classrooms and multi-functional spaces including a cafeteria/stage, gymnasium, and family room that are open to the public for after-school activities and which are directly accessible from the main lobby.
This project was a vital component in a strategic plan to improve public schools in the city of Waterbury. The rationale for designing a pre-K through 8th grade school was to provide a sense of stability and continuity in the childrens’ educational life, by enabling siblings to attend the same school together for a prolonged period of time and to provide fewer transitions.
The school is designed into three distinct wings, connected by a transparent central lobby, which serves as the hub for the entire facility. The T shaped building organization clearly defines and separates energetic spaces for public assembly and quiet spaces for private study (the branches of the T). The public spaces – gym, cafeteria, stage, main lobby – (the stem of the T) are oriented towards the neighborhood and can be easily accessed by visitors without disturbing students throughout the school. The exterior of the building reflects the diversity of the cultural and social backgrounds of the students. With contrasting materials of different colors, textures and origins, the façade embodies the story of an “American Quilt”.
The materials carry tactile characteristics to influence the way in which the children experience the school environment. Different scales and shapes were taken into consideration, not just as visual imagery but also as a learning tool for the younger children. Abstract, bold design evokes dynamic movement and playfulness as an inseparable component of a successful educational philosophy.
The new school meets the City of Waterbury’s goals for high performance schools through building orientation, day-lighting, material selection, and building systems. Breaking away from a conventional modular school and rigid order SLAM employed ambiguous geometry and complex forms in order to create a multi-faceted and inspiring environment to stimulate children’s imaginations and curiosity about their surroundings.