Designing a three-story elementary school to feel like a series of buildings won’t make it any smaller, but could help it appear that way.
That’s one concept behind suggested changes emerging from a peer review of plans for the new Bradfield Elementary School.
“The other part is you are removing asymmetries and inserting symmetries,” Highland Park Town Council member David Dowler said.
Dowler recruited Russell Windham, a Houston architect with a practice committed to the classical tradition, to conduct the peer review for free. The goal: Find ways to help the building fit better architecturally into the neighborhood adjacent to Highland Park Village.
Among Windham’s suggestions: eliminate the five-arch colonnade shown in recent architectural renderings, thereby providing a clearer view of the courtyard behind it.
“The colonnade is an asymmetrical element,” Dowler said. “It kind of jars you.”
The decision over which of Windham’s suggestions, if any, to incorporate into the design by Stantec, Highland Park ISD’s architectural firm, belongs to the school board and could depend on costs.
But town leaders are optimistic and have ideas for helping the district pay for the changes, if necessary.
[pullquote-left]“[District leaders] have a sincere interest in building a building that is as beautiful as it can be.”[/pullquote-left]
“I think there is a very constructive collaboration going on,” said Joel Williams, discussing the matter during his final days as mayor. District leaders “have a sincere interest in building a building that is as beautiful as it can be.”
Town administrator Bill Lindley said HPISD superintendent Tom Trigg is ready to add $200,000 to the Bradfield project to address aesthetics, and the town could match that through a plan that involves waiving 65 percent of the project permitting costs.
“Now you are getting a massing of enough dollars where you can make some headway,” Lindley said.
As the architectural collaboration continued into mid-May, officials were awaiting pricing estimates for Windham’s suggested changes.
In addition to the colonnade, some details on a proposed tower could go away, too, while a faux balcony could be added, and the section of the building housing administrative offices could extend 18-inches closer to the street than it does now.
Many windows could be simplified, quatrefoils could be included, and the use of brick could increase.
Margo Goodwin liked what she saw as she reviewed the ideas a few days before leaving her council seat to replace Williams as mayor.
“Building a house by committee isn’t easy to do,” she said.
But opinions continue to vary.
“I happen to like the colonnade, and I happen to like the tower,” said council member Eric Gambrell, while adding school board members would decide what’s best. “It’s not my decision.”
Gambrell didn’t reject Lindley proposal for giving a break on permitting fees, but added he didn’t want to send a message that the town wants the district to spend more money.
Kristen Woolery, an interior designer who has been critical of Stantec’s Bradfield design, remains skeptical.
“It looks better, but the windows still look bad,” she said. “Russell Windham, he’s going to suggest improvements. Will it be executed [by Stantec] competently?”