When Cannon Design met with the school’s principal, the team discovered the “morning briefings” that the district holds with their students. Many of these students have disadvantageous or difficult home lives; the briefings enable the students to release any negative energy they may have and to receive help, so they can interact with peers and focus better throughout the day.
So when the team learned of the need for more programmatic space where students could thrive, they collaborated with Rockford’s 4th grade students to design a ‘town hall’ within the middle of the building. The cafeteria, gymnasium, library and other public spaces are united by the town hall, which also provides a place for the briefings.
Grade-level learning communities, specifically designed for the needs of distinct age groupings, surround the town hall. The school moves away from traditional long corridors and immovable classroom objects that restrain skill development and interaction. Instead, the design embraces a more ‘open village’ concept to engage the students, creating a connection throughout the building and developing a sense of community.
The architecture is stimulating and educational for the children, and understands that the transition of entering kindergarten can be difficult and intimidating. Therefore, the 86,000 square foot building was influenced by drawings the children made. The unique spaces are visible from the street to help reduce any feeling of intimidation, with each space having its own geometric windows with different colours, allowing the students to understand their space in a larger community. The geometric design continues throughout the building.
The integrated furniture teaches the students mass and void relationships within the physical world as part of developing their spatial reasoning. The moveable furniture can be pushed, pulled or rearranged in any way the students want.
Aiming to reflect the larger community of Rockford, Illinois, the design draws on the communities agrarian and industrial roots. The school is broken down into smaller masses to reflect the children’s understanding.
Cannon Design is a global firm made up of a team of architects, engineers, industry experts and builders, who all help solve their clients’ and society’s greatest challenges.
Project: Rockford Public Schools District 205, Elementary School
Location: Rockford, IL
Project Director: Stuart Brodsky
Design Principal: Robert Benson
Photography: Christopher Barrett & Robert Benson
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