a new middle school.
Group: Taylor Mathewson, Maddie DeHaven, Adam Freeby
Background: Muncie Community Schools is in a state of disrepair, most of the schools in the district need some kind of rework, most of this is to be done through renovations. One of the buildings in a need of some work is Northside Middle School, originally designed as Northside High School, during a time in which Muncie had two high schools. This school is extremely outdated and a bit too large of the population which occupies it. So the goal of this project was to locate and design a middle school that could fit the needs of the north side of Muncie Community Schools.
Context: For this project we were not restricted on the site we could choose. After much research and analysis we came across a site on the corner of Gavin and Manor streets. This location is on the east side of Muncie and located in a primarily residential area with a Norfolk Southern owned rail line to the south of our site. The approximate acreage available is 29 acres which is more than enough for the development of a middle on the site.
Site: Our site as mentioned earlier is situated on Gavin and Manor streets on Muncie’s east side. When we came across this site for us it seemed like a perfect fit, it gave us the room we would need for the floor plate, and at the same time gave us natural resources that other sites in Muncie would not give us. It was these natural resources that began to become our focus and how we could utilize them into our design.
This site was not perfect by any means and we found this out as we did more digging on our site. One of the first things noticeable about the site was the power lines that ran through the site. These ran on the north side parallel to Manor St. and then about midway through the site they turned and ran parallel to Gavin St. Another challenge with the site was navigating the small drainage ditch and it being a potential flooding hazard. And finally the last of the big, noticeable challenges was the Norfolk Southern rail lines to the south. These were an issue due to the noise hazard that they presented. During the duration of the project it was a group goal to keep as much of the trees as a buffer in order to deafen the noise from the train as much as possible.
Design Process: Like mentioned earlier, there was an immediate focus on the landscape and how that could be used in a way to engage the classrooms and break down those stereotypical 4 walls that a typical middle school classroom is contained by. This focus left us wanting to leave the forested area as untouched as possible to keep the landscape intact so it could be explored and could be come a learning tool for the students.
While there was the connection to the exterior of the building, finding a way to engage the middle of the building was just as important. For starters, we wanted to do away with the typical notion of the lockers along the hallway walls. In its place we looked at locker bays that could be integrated into the space rather than work as just lockers. These lockers would come in modules with the center of the module being interchangeable. The lockers with the seating was designed with angles that were found to be ergonomically pleasing to students when they sit on them. The other module was designed to have shelving that could be used to display what the classmates are doing or for more storage.
With the floor plate being fairly wide, breakout spaces outside of the classrooms could be developed and help to pull the classroom out of the room and help engage students by being able to use different types of learning environments.
Another part about the hallway was pulling the traffic going in and out of the classrooms and making it so that someone that has to get to one end of the building to the other does not have to run there but can make it in a decent amount of time. To do this we pulled the walls in and created little alcoves for students to use similarly to the off ramp on a highway. This shape would then affect the walls on the classrooms creating a shape that is not like the stereotypical 4 walls that most students are accustom learning.
With the development of the school there was this want to divide the classes up by grade. This worked out to having the sixth grade on the first floor and the seventh and eighth on the second. This split made the most logical sense for a couple of reasons. The first being there is a sense of hierarchy, the higher the grade, the more classes you would have on the second floor. The second reason was to ease the transition of the new sixth graders into the middle school. Stepping up into middle school from elementary school is no easy task and to help ease this transition some of the "essential" classrooms were put on the second floor, primarily the art room, computer lab, and the FACS classroom. This way the students will begin to mingle with the upper classes but they will still be on there own for the most part.
The message of collaboration was taken within the classrooms themselves and made sure there was furniture that could be moved easily and help students collaborate with each other in the classroom. this also gives the teacher the ability to create dynamic environments for students to learn in.
Conclusion: This design was a challenge, but one that I personally took a lot from and will be taking into more future projects both in and out of school. Working on this has opened my eyes to school design and has gotten me to appreciate school design and how we as architects need to revise the way we look at educational environments to make the better.
As a whole the school turned out well and we ended up with a solid layout for what we had, but some areas could have definitely used more refinement or development, most noticeably the exterior facade and windows. The windows could have been integrated into the facade design in a better way.
All in all this project was a success in the sense that a lot was learned and new ideas/techniques were developed that our group as a whole can take to future projects that we work on.