Texas Architect Jan/Feb 2007: Spaces for Learning
Texas Architect is the official publication of the Texas Society of Architects, each edition features recently completed projects and other editorial content largely written by AIA members in Texas. That collective participation was the basis of Texas Architect’s recognition by the national AIA with a 2010 Institute Honor for Collaborative Achievement.
texas architect 26 1/2 2007 by michael malone, aia Shared Resources Within the re-emergent Oak Cliff neighborhood on Dallas’ south side, the new Arcadia Park Elemen- tary School and Branch Library demonstrates how civic buildings can focus the life of a community around an institution. Designed by Dallas-based VAI Architects and located in a stunning site with elevated views towards downtown Dallas, the complex spreads out along a continuous linear spine that provides circulation between classroom wings and shared common amenities. As the first new school built with funds from the landmark 2002 Dallas Independent School Dis- trict bond election, Arcadia Park Elementary replaced a decrepit facility well past its useful life that had long been identified by DISD planners as a priority for new construction. It further provided a test for the new but extremely practical idea of merging a City of Dallas branch library with a DISD school. In the case of Arcadia Park, the new branch library has a home in a neighborhood that was in need of such a facility. DISD could not have provided such a spacious and well-equipped media center, and the steady use of its resources is assured by its being connected to the school. Arcadia Park was VAI’s second new DISD school and the project offered the firm an opportunity to define new professional expertise. As a new ground-up school for 800 students, the resulting building was programmed to be over 114,000 square feet. The ambitious program, with discreet elements including a separate auditorium, gymnasium, and cafeteria to support programs in media, visual arts, performing arts, instructional technology, and physical education used every bit of the square footage and budget. Working from the guidelines DISD produced for new schools to be built after the bond election, VAI began with a site plan that took the best advantage of the sloping site, trees, and views. The architects immediately recognized that this was perhaps the most beautiful, if not exceptional site in Dallas on which to build a school. From the earliest design diagrams, VAI incorporated the internal street, or “spine” as Barton Drake, AIA, VAI’s design principal, calls it. The clear organizational diagram of the school, with all the various functions being accessed from the circulation spine, is a response to the narrow site which fronts on the neighborhood and backs up to a steep bluff. The topography (this page) the branch library has its own separate entrance at the eastern terminus of the complex. (opposite page, top) an intimately scaled children’s reading area attracts youngsters with whimsical features. (opposite page, bottom) cubic exterior forms at the school’s entrance reflect the heritage of the neighborhood’s mainly hispanic population. project Arcadia Park Elementary and Public Library, Dallas clients Dallas ISD and the City of Dallas architect VAI Architects design team Barton Drake, AIA; Jeffrey B. Simcik; Tim Hartman; Ola Roos; Tom Kemp; Jaime Ramirez site contractor Rogers-O’Brien Construction general contractor / construction mgr Coronado Builders consultants Charles Gojer Associates (structural, civil); Bayse + Associates (MEP, technology); Pacheco Koch (property survey, civil); Caye Cook & Associates (landscape); H.G. Rice and Company (kitchen); Cedrick Frank Associates (A/V, acoustics); Apex Cost Consultants (cost estimating); HBC (geotechnical); Accessology (accessibility); Eliseo Garcia (public art) photographer Miguel Casanova