Full Circle Newsletter
An e-Newsletter for the Clients and Friends of C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A.

December 2005

Urban Schools

A New Day for Urban Schools as Centers of Community

“Quality public schools are being recognized as important agents for downtowns to attract residents and jobs,” according to the National Association of Realtors.  The organization describes a new generation of public schools, dubbed a “new-building type” and “characterized by an integrated, even global mix of students, creative and discerning architectural forms, updated curricula, and partnerships with community institutions and services.”

In a related trend, the planning and designing of schools as centers of community is becoming increasingly popular across the country.  “Schools are becoming a gathering place – a place of lifelong learning, shared health and fitness facilities, and a host of other services to enhance community and student success,” reports the American Architectural Foundation.  “In order to create schools as centers of community, architects, educators, designers, local officials, and residents must think differently about our schools and create spaces that reflect a new understanding of the school building.”

This new generation of public schools is on the horizon in Central Florida.  Prompted by the region’s burgeoning growth, rising construction costs and diminishing land for new construction, Orange County Public Schools recently solicited designs for new urban school prototypes.  “As educational program requirements and building design and technology have changed over time and the availability of urban land in populated areas of the County has decreased, OCPS has determined that there is a need to plan and design a more compact, multi-story New Urban Elementary School Prototype,” according to the district’s scope of services description. 

C.T. Hsu + Associates ranked first among three firms selected by the Orange County School Board to design a new urban elementary school prototype for the district.  The firm’s prototype is designed to stand alone or combine in a variety of ways to adapt to the district’s differing needs.  It is also architecturally adaptable to surrounding neighborhoods and incorporates the required levels of school safety and security. 

Features of the prototype include:

  • Core spaces like the cafeteria and media center can be accessed independently for after-hours community use.
  • Centralized, shared activity spaces allow for team teaching and hands-on learning.  This encourages greater interaction between students in different classes.
  • A wing for two grades with its own front door and identity to create ownership
  • A bright and colorful media center that also will feature a playful group learning area

Earning the top ranking was a “dream come true” for firm President C.T. Hsu. “Our portfolio includes a great deal of school redesign work, but never the opportunity to develop a new school design.”

Design Principal Tim McNicholas authored an article for the March 2006 edition of School Planning & Management on redesigning school libraries for the information age and role of media specialist in the design process.  To receive a copy of the article, please contact cthsu@cthsu.com.

All images and articles copyright © 2008 C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A.

C.T. Hsu + Associates, P.A.
820 Irma Avenue • Orlando, FL 32803 • 407 423 0098 • Fax 407 423 4793

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