Spiezle Architectural Group, at the January 2019 school board meeting, presented an initial design proposal that included floor plans and site concepts for the proposed new middle school the district plans to construct.
To create their ‘Discovery Report,’ the architects conducted interviews with a number of focus groups to better understand the needs of the community. “We started this discovery process where we engaged all the stakeholders–– from the students to the parents to the teachers–– and asked them what they want in their school” reported a representative for the firm. “One thing we really like to do too is ask about the activities that they can’t do in their school and make a school that provides those opportunities” explained another representative.
Spiezle also interviewed administrators at the current Lower Merion School District middle schools as well as some staff from the elementary and high schools. They say they plan to talk with teachers who teach in ‘specialty spaces’ such as those who teach music and physical education to better understand their individual needs.
Click the images below to view the initial floor plans and renderings of the new middle school.
According to Spiezle, the proposed design for the middle school aims to take advantage of the slope present on the site. By planning for both a floor above and below the main level of the building, the architects claim construction will be both easier and more cost effective.
The plans also centralize the athletic fields towards the road at the front of the site and place the classrooms in a more private location towards the rear. The architects say this will further increase efficiency when it comes time for the school to be built.
In terms of the academic and classroom setup, the new design differs greatly from current LMSD schools. The plans show the classrooms together into groups of four, which the designers call ‘learning communities’. According to the firm, this group-based organization of classrooms allows for additional flexibility and a more seamless transition between large group and individual learning. The ‘learning communities’ style closely supports the district’s current use of ‘teaming’ in the middle schools.
“A lot of times schools are built for efficiency instead of learning … so finding ways where students are engaged in learning instead of just going through the day in an efficient manner is really important”Representative from Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc.
After the presentation, one of the architects more explicitly explained the purpose of ‘learning communities’, expressing that they aim to assist in “engaging all types of learners.” He then added, “everybody learns differently … so you have to create space that engages different types of learners by creating flexible environments.”
Spiezle Architectural Group also spoke about their intent to design an environmentally friendly building in their presentation. They mentioned the possibility adding solar panels to the roof and heating the building with a geothermal heating system. When asked about the potential cost of some of these proposals, a representative commented that “a lot of sustainability is passive design … so things like daylight can help save so much energy.” The firm said that they would aim to design a certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) if it was in the interest of the district.
Interested in seeing the full presentation? Click the link below to download.
Interested in seeing the video version of this report? Click here to see the YouTube video.
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