Major overhaul for school in Riga sees accessibility for all as a top priority
Reconstructing and adding new buildings to schools can be a challenging project type, but the creative expression of the designer is often severely limited by strict program requirements and financial limitations of a municipal client. Nonetheless, the architects efforts succeed in achieving a rich spatial and aesthetic experience through function-based form, strategic placement of colourful accents and constant visual connection between the inside and outside of the school building complex. The unusual setting of this project was proposed as its inspiration; a conceptual point of departure and the outer-most layer of spatial enclosure. Arhitektu birojs Forma believe the greatest winners are the students of this institution.
The Forest School is secondary school for 200 children. The program requirements asked for clasrooms, dormitory accommodation for 90 students, a canteen, a gymnasium, a meeting hall, activity rooms, a rehabilitation gym with exercise room for massage and a small indoor pool. There are three buildings for whole complex – the new teaching and dormitory building, the new gymnasium including small children classes and the reconstructed historical bulding for out-of-class work, housing the library.
Classrooms are designed for not more than 14 children each and are equipped with built-in furniture, providing storage in the classrooms for teaching aids. There are small playrooms for younger children which can be used as open or closed areas and used for small group lessons as well. Outside activities include green clasrooms, playgrounds, an open air theater and a football pitch. Children spend a lot of time outside between / after lessons and also have lessons outside in green classrooms in nice weather which is important part of the learning process. The palette of natural and regional materials was selected primarily for its durability and sustainability.
Complete accessibility of the complex of school building by disabled and special needs visitors has been a top priority in its design and construction process. The new school building is equipped with a number of accessibility features; all access points are ramped; all public and circulation spaces are equipped with wall-mounted hand rails and wood pannelling; all levels of the school have handicap accessible restrooms; floor finishes include functional accents highling entrances, nurse posts, reception desk, as well as other important features and services within the building; all levels of the new buildings of school are vertically accessible by specification elevator; plus differences in height between floor levels inside buildings are ramped.