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Free Union Country School Competition 2005 Edward R. Ford

Free Union Country School Competition

The Free Union School is unique in its marriage of an educational philosophy with a particular place and even a particular way of building. The objective of this design is to achieve true flexibility by providing spaces and furnishings that are multifunctional and by providing movable equipment that can easily be operated by staff and that requires a minimum of maintenance. The stage for example can be at either end of the room or on the deck for an indoor or outdoor audience. The room is meant to have something of the character of a barn or lodge without literally imitating those spaces. While a tight fit between the curriculum and the building is neither possible nor desirable since this could only be achieved at the cost of flexibility, there are some general principals that find their way into the design. The first is the provision of spaces for individuals and spaces for groups. John Dewey wrote: The development within the young of the attitudes and dispositions necessary to the continuous and progressive life of a society cannot take place by direct conveyance of beliefs, emotions, and knowledge. It takes place through the intermediary of the environment. . . The social environment . . . It is truly educative in its effect in the degree in which an individual shares or participates in some conjoint activity. Thus a number of spaces for collective activities are provided with no exact specified functions- the inglenook and the three table, bench and window combinations. Yet these spaces could also serve the development of individuals as areas of repose within the larger classrooms. A number of smaller spaces are located at the perimeter for small group instruction, but also to encourage awareness of the exterior. Some have views of the mountains beyond. The scheme could be altered without great difficulty to place the studio/performance space on the second floor. Placing it at grade allows for large events to extend onto the lawn or extend from the lawn into the space and allows for ease of access and exit for large number of people. Placing the classrooms on the second level allows for view of the mountains.


Entry and Existing Buildings This scheme uses the language, materials and elements of the existing buildings while adding components of modern technology to them as well as updating methods of construction to contemporary energy standards in terms of insulation, ventilation, cooling.


Rigid Frames: The major beams and columns are made of two half logs sandwiching a steel plate. Since they act as rigid frames, they taper toward the ground and are allowed to rotate at their joints.

Beams: They are also made from two half logs sandwiching a steel plate. They support the floor deck with steel perimeter beams for lateral bracing.

Log walls: These form the inner classroom walls and the core area of stair, bathrooms, and inglenook. They are built with 6 x12 square log components used in conventional log homes.

Exterior walls: These are made of stud construction with horizontal siding to provide insulation. The interior may be drywall or exposed studs.

Our taste in building rejects paint, and all shifts, and shows the original grain of the wood: refuses pilasters and columns that support nothing, and allows the real supporters of the house to honestly show themselves. Ralph Waldo Emerson The Conduct of Life

Section at Art Performance Space and Classrooms

Architecture does not add to stone and wood something which does not belong to them, but it does add to them properties and efficacies which they did not posses in their earlier state. Neither engineering nor fine art limits itself to imitative reproduction or copying of antecedent conditions. Their products may nevertheless be more effectively natural, more “life like,� than are antecedent states of natural existence. John Dewey

Few adult persons can see nature. The sun illuminates only the eye of the man, but shines into the eye and heart of the child. The lover of nature is he whose inward and outward senses are still truly adjusted to each other; who has retained the spirit of infancy even into the era of manhood. In the tranquil landscape, and especially in the distant line of the horizon, man beholds somewhat as beautiful as his own nature. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Free Union School Competition  

2205 Competition for a school near Charlottesville

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