Yates design concepts capture school history, enhance collaboration

The Project Advisory Team for Yates High School discussed how the current building is used and how to create a new facility that embraces the school’s history and enhances its academics and special programs in a 21st century learning environment.

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The group, comprised of staff, parents and community members, began a two-day design charrette Thursday with the school’s architects to participate in the planning and design of the new Yates. Yates is one of 40 schools HISD will rebuild or renovate under the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion program. The school will be open during construction, which is scheduled to begin mid- to late 2015.

The school was originally built on Elgin Avenue in 1926 and was later moved in 1958 to its current Sampson Street location in Houston’s Third Ward.

“We want to understand how you use Yates, what Yates means to the community and what will make the new facility special,” said HISD General Manager of Facilities Design Dan Bankhead.

The school’s architects from Moody Nolan presented various design concepts to the PAT for the new three-story, 210,000-square-feet facility. The group discussed pros and cons of each concept and looked at how to merge design elements from multiple concepts into one.

“We want to get ideas that result into a building design concept,” said architect Albert Ray. “You’ve got a great location between Texas Southern (University) and the University of Houston. How can we take better advantage of that?”

The PAT reviewed building criteria that includes a single phase of construction to easily migrate students to the new facility and building a secure facility with a strong neighborhood presence and sustainability features such as natural light and a green space. The group also evaluated the position of the building on the site and where to locate the main entrance.

“We’re talking about changing the face of the school,” said Yates Principal Donetrus Hill. “The main entrance certainly should be somewhere our students have easy access to.”

The PAT looked at design drafts that showed the building located off of Cleburne Street and with large gathering spaces such as the gym and performing arts areas in the center of the school.

“I want the campus to look grand because I think that will help attract more students,” said Yates graduate Angela Wright Brantley, whose daughter is a student at the school. ”I like the idea of moving the school back farther from the street and having the performing arts and gym on the ends of the school to accommodate visitors to the school.”

The group discussed the importance of having modern technology advanced spaces at the building to enhance the school’s magnet communications program and also allow the school to host special programs such as UIL competitions. Other ideas shared include having a courtyard and common areas throughout the campus to offer students a place to gather outside of learning areas where they can still be easily monitored by staff.

“Collaborative work spaces that offer multiple learning opportunities are important, but we also have to think about the population of students we serve,” Hill said. “We have to keep them engaged and keep the collaboration high. … We need a building that captures our history and is aesthetically pleasing but symbolic and speaks to the fact that we are innovative.”