Waynflete Lower School / Simons Architects

© Ryan Bent Photography© Ryan Bent Photography© Ryan Bent Photography© Ryan Bent Photography+ 41

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

Text description provided by the architects. Located in Portland’s Western Promenade Historic District, the new 34,000 SF Lower School was designed to reflect the scale and rhythm of neighboring residences. The project merges the school’s 121-year history with its future, by incorporating its original building, Founders Hall with a new innovative, Passive House certified school building.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

The new School replaces an outdated white brick addition built in 1968. Undersized and overused, the former addition was a confusing, multi-level conglomeration of several buildings that separated and isolated the school’s four learning age groups. The new building is designed to integrate the four groups (Early Childhood, K/1, 2/3, and 4/5 grades) and organize their “habitats” around a central lobby and atrium that runs right through the middle of the building, connecting the upper-level playground at the front entrance with the lower level playfield behind the building.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
Ground Floor Plan
Ground Floor Plan

The new building has two wings joined by the atrium and a shared classroom, allowing natural daylight to flow into three sides of each classroom grouping. The building includes flexible learning spaces, as well as an art studio and after-school spaces.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

The building was designed to achieve three goals: 1. To create a sense of shared community that would allow all students, their families, and faculty to be together on a daily basis. The shared entrance lobby visually connects all four group classroom areas, and the stepped atrium that can seat 100 connects the entrance playground with the field behind the school.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

2. To create a sense of identity and cohesiveness, fostering a sense of familiarity and security within each of the four classroom groupings. Each grouping has its own gathering space, cubbies, and bathrooms, with its own distinctive sense of place and relationship to the shared community spaces.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

3. To create opportunities for small group and individual experiences that are age-appropriate and encourage the children to develop greater confidence and self-expression. Windows that go to the floor that the children can literally walk into, climbing lofts that younger children can navigate for quiet time, corner windows and window seats that connect to the out-of-doors, and colorful spaces all encourage creativity.

© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography
© Ryan Bent Photography

The building has a high-performance exterior envelope and high-efficiency mechanical and lighting systems. It is designed to achieve Passive House certification that reduces the energy use to 80% less than energy code requirements.