Rowell Brokaw Architects
Opsis Architecture

Arts & Tech Academy.jpg

The Arts and Technology Academy Middle School is a complete rebuild of an existing school. The new school was constructed in phases to allow continuous occupancy and includes renovation and new construction. Public spaces are in the 1-story west wing and learning spaces in the 2-story west wing, with a 2-story STEM lab and daylit lobby at the center.

ATA was an underperforming school with declining enrollment, and parents sent their children to schools outside of the neighborhood. The project provided 4J the opportunity to create a magnet school that would attract neighborhood students. The curriculum changed ATA into a Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Lab school, and the goal for the architecture was to exemplify this new beginning.

The school site was constrained, with no space to build an entirely new school. Therefore, ATA was built in two phases to allow the school to operate at full capacity during the 18-month construction period. Three gyms were remodeled and repurposed, and a portion of the existing building was removed to provide space for the new classroom wing.  The students moved to the new wing while the remainder of the building and sitework were completed.

As a STEM Lab School, teachers integrate reading, arts, electives, writing, mathematics and science curriculum to support problem solving and critical thinking. The new building puts STEM at the center of all programs and functions of the school to enhance this integrated approach to learning. As the pedagogical and geographical center of the school, the STEM Lab unites both levels of classroom space and is directly visible from a 2-story daylit lobby—allowing students and visitors to glimpse the energy and activity in the heart of the school.  A continuous roof constructed of glulam beams and wood decking floats over the main wings of the school, unifying the building under a warm, protective cover. 

Jury’s Comments: “A fantastic renovation of an existing school that interprets a new pedagogy for STEM curriculum with a new organization for this middle school. The result feels like a completely new institution that embraces open and transparent spaces for learning.  New relationships are skillfully organized both in plan and section by providing places of learning for classes and well as small groups and individual spaces.  The result is a unifying whole of existing spaces, materials, and structure with the new additions that create a complete translation for the school.  Particular skill was demonstrated in the architectural treatments that unify existing structure, materials, and spaces with the new construction.  The end result is both robust and delicate…elegant and durable.”