Middle School

Location:  Syracuse, NY

Completed:  August 2016

Program:  Classrooms, Media Center, Cafe + Performing Arts, Music, Gym

Construction Type:  Addition + Renovation

Awards:  2016 AIACNY Citation for Design

Following the districts visioning and strategic planning, the design team worked closely with administrators and teachers to develop the design for the renovation and addition of 132,000 sf. to Pine Grove Middle School, a building serving grades 6th through 8th. The 12,000 sf. addition creates a new community café + performing arts center, state of the art media center and entry lobby.  These new spaces are flanked by two existing brick and concrete structures originally constructed in 1969.  To improve future flexibility and spatial adjacencies, all of the interior wall partitions of the two original structures were removed, leaving only the exterior shell and floors of the building to remain.  The existing two-story wing to the west was redesigned to be the location of the primary instructional spaces, while the existing structure to the east became the gymnasium, music and fitness center.

The building design features concepts and materials that reflect the changing attitude of education to support 21st century learning.  The exterior of the new entry and media center utilizes a color shifting iridescent metal panel which complements the existing red brick while subtly animating ones approach to the building by allowing the color to transform from a deep red to orange to a light green. This large external entry portal is replicated on the interior in a two-story ‘volume of light’ featuring an overhead skylight, a ‘vision wall’ displaying the values of Pine Grove and windows connecting the main lobby with the learning commons and media center above.  This dynamic space serves as the social hub of the school.  On the second floor, the media center’s open footprint incorporates built-in and lightweight furniture, efficiently balancing the need for both fixed and flexible zones of space.

Each grade level has been clustered together into ‘learning commons’, which contain spaces of various sizes designed for large lectures, small group instruction, collaboration and individual working styles to coexist together. Classrooms are outfitted with operable partitions, lightweight furniture and large touch-screen monitors for increased flexibility and to allow for trans-disciplinary study. The hallways are designed as extensions of the learning environment, forming smaller group and display spaces, further reinforcing the belief that learning can happen anywhere at anytime.

Pine Grove Middle School is in the second of a two-phase research study partnering with the SyracuseCoE and world-renowned scientific experts to test the learning and problem solving capabilities of students.  The study examines the effect of changes in indoor environmental quality and elements in the build environment, before and after the building renovation.  Our hope is to demonstrate that the improvements in day lighting, air quality, furniture, finishes and design will create a healthier more engaging learning environment for students and teachers, raising the bar for educational delivery and design.