The new Montessori Elementary School at Highland Park is a state of the art new facility to expand the Young Women's Leadership Foundation's mission of educating at-risk youth, while also designed to meet the specific requirements for education in the Montessori method. This ground-up new school building provides twenty-one classrooms for students in grades pre-K through fifth. At just over 50,000 square feet, the two-story footprint also houses a cafeteria with full kitchen, multipurpose gymnasium, administrative offices, music / dance / art studio, and library. At the middle of the building, outdoor lighting is brought from above by clerestory windows. A broad two-story monumental stair leads students up to their classrooms.
Each classroom is provided a very large window with external sun shading,lending expansive views into the surrounding neighborhood or play areas. Modern security concerns created the need for intense discussion regarding the balance between providing natural light into the spaces and maintaining a sense of openness while blocking direct site lines into student areas. We modeled a system of sunshades and light shelves to modulate light, views, and safety.
The Montessori project was procured under a CM/GC fast track contract. In this case, the Owner’s schedule was very tight. The design contract was signed January 2020, and classes began at the end of August 2021. There was no other way to meet this schedule than to have
a General Contractor on board to review and verify price and schedule viability while drawings were in progress. We issued the site grading and land disturbance package only three months after beginning design work, and were under construction two months after that. Despite the pandemic and encountering deep foundry sands on the site, we completed the project under budget, with change orders resulting in a net credit back to the owner.
The interior of the Montessori Elementary School needed to be conducive to the Monstessori methods of learning. Due to modern privacy concerns, we designed a unique modular shade system. This system maximizes natural light and puts the safety of the students at the forefront. Natural wood tones were used to create warmth and softness while playing well with the school’s colors - orange and blue.