Safe, collaborative spaces key design elements for new Davis, Dowling

Project Advisory Teams for Davis High School and Dowling Middle School looked for ways to make their facilities better with collaborative and transparent student-centered designs that provide safe and engaging learning environments.

Both groups participated in a two-day design charrette Monday and Tuesday with the schools’ architects to discuss pros and cons of the existing facilities and sites and to share design ideas for facilities that will move academic and social cultures into the 21st century.

Davis and Dowling are part of a group of 40 schools HISD will rebuild or renovate under the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion program. Both schools will be open during construction, scheduled to begin mid- to late 2015.

“We need more open spaces that will accommodate our current programs and allow for more growth,” said Davis Principal Julissa Martinez. “This school needs to be a diamond in our neighborhood, so that it will be a place where parents want to send their kids, where kids want to come and the community wants to be involved.”

Davis, built in 1926, will be renovated to preserve the facade of the original building and to replace its linear corridors and traditional classrooms with flexible learning neighborhoods. Building additions include a new competitive gym and outdoor spaces near the cafeteria, which will be remodeled with more windows to bring natural light into the space and to allow the area to easily extend outside.

“We’re looking at making the cafeteria the heart or center of the school, so that it becomes one of the first things you see when you walk into the school,” said architect John Wells of Bay-IBI, Davis’ architecture firm.

The Davis renovation also consists of creating a driveway at the school entry, making improvements to the boys’ gym, and moving the school’s off-campus softball field closer to the school by possibly removing the parking lot from behind the school.

Some of the building challenges and concerns the Davis PAT discussed were space limitations, merging the old building with new areas and undergoing a renovation with students inside the building.

“We will work very closely with your campus to determine what ways we can be least disruptive to the students and the academic program during the renovation,” said HISD General Manager of Facilities Design Dan Bankhead. “We want to maximize what you have now and think about growth.”

Like Davis, Dowling will receive collaborative learning areas with more natural light in its new facility. Preliminary designs show the new campus built on the athletic fields behind the school and the main entrance still located off of Stancliff Street.

“My number one concern is safety because the campus we have now is very open,” said Principal Josefa Olivares. “I also want the school to look more inviting to our students, parents and the community.”

The design includes an atrium near the entrance and a large courtyard in the school’s center to serve as a safe and central area on campus for students before, during and after school. Overlooking the courtyard is the fine arts building and a three-story academic building with a cylinder tower that will house collaborative learning spaces and commons where students can work in small or large groups.

“Our goal, especially in designing these collaborative spaces, is to create spaces that complement different student learning styles,” said architect Daniel Kornberg of Harrison Kornberg Architects, the firm designing the new Dowling. “Some spaces will be calm and quiet while other spaces might be more active.”

The design features a long walkway that will stretch from the athletic fields to the courtyard as well as more transparent spaces, including the school’s main entrance, fine arts and dining areas, so students, staff and visitors can see student interaction and activities in action from outside the school.

“We need a new look to our school and better teaching and social spaces to help students interact with their peers,” said Dowling seventh-grader Dinochi Sandifer. “This will help improve not only the education provided, but it will restore student and community pride in the school.”

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