In the spring of 2005, VMDO Architects began working with Staunton City Public Schools to upgrade and expand two near-identical elementary schools: T.C. McSwain and A.R. Ware Elementary Schools. By all accounts, both schools had outlived their original charm and neither provided adequately for the students they served. Still, they were valuable community resources and studies indicated that it would more beneficial to comprehensively renovate both buildings than consolidate into a new, larger school.

With the decision made to renovate and add on to each school, VMDO Architects worked closely with parents, teachers, and school officials to develop a list of critical issues to be addressed. Those identified included:

• Safety improvements to vehicular and pedestrian traffic

• Site improvements

• Increased play areas

• Increased natural light throughout the building

• Addition of recreational gymnasium

• Addition of a library

• Increased program space

In the spring of 2005, VMDO Architects began working with Staunton City Public Schools to upgrade and expand two near-identical elementary schools: T.C. McSwain and A.R. Ware Elementary Schools. By all accounts, both schools had outlived their original charm and neither provided adequately for the students they served. Still, they were valuable community resources and studies indicated that it would more beneficial to comprehensively renovate both buildings than consolidate into a new, larger school.

With the decision made to renovate and add on to each school, VMDO Architects worked closely with parents, teachers, and school officials to develop a list of critical issues to be addressed. Those identified included:

• Safety improvements to vehicular and pedestrian traffic

• Site improvements

• Increased play areas

• Increased natural light throughout the building

• Addition of recreational gymnasium

• Addition of a library

• Increased program space

The resulting design transformed each building. Framed views of the outdoors encourage a child to look at and appreciate his or her surroundings. The careful coordination of play spaces with the building’s interior pull the act of learning outdoors, forwarding the notion that learning is carried with a child and not confined to a classroom.

The resulting design transformed each building. Framed views of the outdoors encourage a child to look at and appreciate his or her surroundings. The careful coordination of play spaces with the building’s interior pull the act of learning outdoors, forwarding the notion that learning is carried with a child and not confined to a classroom. An outdoor classroom—in addition to providing an opportunity for children to be outside--creates a hands-on learning opportunity. By orienting the classroom north-south, the shadow of a child standing at the center creates a sundial. Boulders embedded in the paving and the surrounding play yard teach children about the relative distances between each planet and the sun, represented by the brass drain at the classroom’s center.

Site concerns have been addressed by reorienting the entrance and service areas of both buildings and through the addition of a designated bus-loop and drop-off for parents. At McSwain Elementary the south street-facing façade of the addition welcomes its residential neighbors who use the gymnasium and library in the evenings and on the weekends. The new entrance pulls the car traffic off of the main street entrance, thus reducing the impact of traffic on the neighborhood. Scale and mass of both buildings were carefully considered in relation to their surrounding residential context.

The resulting design transformed each building. Framed views of the outdoors encourage a child to look at and appreciate his or her surroundings. The careful coordination of play spaces with the building’s interior pull the act of learning outdoors, forwarding the notion that learning is carried with a child and not confined to a classroom. An outdoor classroom—in addition to providing an opportunity for children to be outside--creates a hands-on learning opportunity. By orienting the classroom north-south, the shadow of a child standing at the center creates a sundial. Boulders embedded in the paving and the surrounding play yard teach children about the relative distances between each planet and the sun, represented by the brass drain at the classroom’s center.

Site concerns have been addressed by reorienting the entrance and service areas of both buildings and through the addition of a designated bus-loop and drop-off for parents. At McSwain Elementary the south street-facing façade of the addition welcomes its residential neighbors who use the gymnasium and library in the evenings and on the weekends. The new entrance pulls the car traffic off of the main street entrance, thus reducing the impact of traffic on the neighborhood. Scale and mass of both buildings were carefully considered in relation to their surrounding residential context.

The resulting design transformed each building. Framed views of the outdoors encourage a child to look at and appreciate his or her surroundings. The careful coordination of play spaces with the building’s interior pull the act of learning outdoors, forwarding the notion that learning is carried with a child and not confined to a classroom.
The resulting design transformed each building. Framed views of the outdoors encourage a child to look at and appreciate his or her surroundings. The careful coordination of play spaces with the building’s interior pull the act of learning outdoors, forwarding the notion that learning is carried with a child and not confined to a classroom.

Client: Staunton City Schools

Location: Staunton, VA

Discipline: Primary & Elementary Schools

Completion: 2006

Size: 63,240 SF Renovation/Addition