A new 75,000-sf Early Learning Campus, designed specifically for The Awty International School’s pre-K through first grade students, recently opened in Houston. Shepley Bulfinch’s design created the new campus from a vacant 30-year-old office park that sits on a 5.25-acre site.
The office park had three existing buildings in a U-shaped configuration that created a natural enclosed pocket for Shepley Bulfinch to focus the learning and enrichment facilities for the 345 pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade students. Two-thirds of the existing parking lot in this pocket was replaced with synthetic turf to create a 20,000-sf outdoor play space. The remaining third was left for use as a visitor parking lot. This green space features outdoor classrooms, flexible learning spaces, and a European-style plaza with benches and pavers. All but four of the campus’s 26 classrooms open up to this fenced green space.
The outdoor play and learning area has a bicycle/tricycle path winding around play structures and under bridges, two playgrounds, a small soccer field, and basketball and play courts. There are also student gardens and covered pavilions with wooden decks to help facilitate outdoor learning.
View from multipurpose room across Boulevard towards Building C Entry at the Awty International School in Houston. Photo: Shepley Bulfinch.
In order to make the existing office buildings feel like a school environment for young children, the exterior glass, sign bands, and soffit panels were removed and the buildings were clad with vertical perforated multi-colored translucent resin panels. The outdoor classrooms use the same resin panels for roofing in a shingled pattern. Security fencing, check-in points, and separate entries and circulation for carpool drop-off, visitors, and faculty improve vehicular circulation and campus safety.
In addition to the 26 classrooms, there are also two multi-purpose rooms, art and music rooms, a teaching kitchen, a library, a media room, and dining facilities for students and faculty. A two-story gymnasium features a rock-climbing wall, multipurpose courts for basketball and volleyball, and a performance stage. The classrooms are linked via internal doors through all three buildings and large glass windows, skylights, and open spaces provide plentiful natural light.
J.E. Dunn Construction was the general contractor for the project while Cardno and Burns DeLatte & McCoy, Inc. handled structural engineering and MEP engineering duties respectively.