Architect: Korb + Associates Architects
Owner: Achieving Education Excellence, Inc.
Contractor: VJS Construction Services, Inc.
The client, a nonprofit foundation, acquired approximately 12 acres of blighted brownfield over the course of 2014-2016. The intent behind this assemblage was to construct a new K4-12 school. The brief included both traditional classrooms and technology-based flex environments. Specialty labs, including Science, STEM, and art were also called for. Additional program elements included a robust athletic facility, including a three station gymnasium, WIAA standard track and field, and a twenty five yard by twenty five meter natatorium.
The site is bound by an interstate highway on the east and city streets on the north and west. The southern edge of the site plunges fifty feet into a river valley, creating significant topographical challenges. The site was heavily contaminated and full remediation was required. Intermittent city streets, now vacated, dead-ended into the river bluff, creating a haven for illicit activity. The site was described by the local police department as one of the most dangerous in the city.
The building comprises 192,000 square feet of new construction. It is a steel frame and precast concrete superstructure with a cladding comprised of masonry, metal panel, and curtainwall.
The challenge set forth to the design team was to convey the faith-based nature of the institution while embracing a modern aesthetic. To achieve this goal, the architects included crosses incorporated into the three main building facades. The crosses serve as sunshades by day and are illuminated beacons by night. Additionally, the school’s four “pillars” (athletics, academics, family, and faith) are translated into architectural elements as four pillars of light (visible at night) on the north side of the building, along with corresponding supergraphics in the main commons. Interior features include a skylit monumental stair which rests in the center of a twenty four foot wide “main street” connecting the main entrance and the double height building commons. The commons was specifically designed as a universal gathering space which could host not just students, but families and community members for church services, lectures, and athletic or public events.
St. Augustine Preparatory Academy is a highly sustainable facility. The campus manages all of its stormwater, reducing stress on city infrastructure. All classrooms receive extensive daylight and fresh air through oversize, operable windows. Low-emitting paints and recycled finishes are incorporated throughout. The fourth floor includes a greenhouse lab to educate what are primarily inner city students the art and science of farming.