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06/01/2014

A Welcoming Space for Every Young Face

Created to replace a building that was past its prime, the new Thompson Elementary School building offers a comfortable yet stimulating environment for its young students.

By Kylie Wroblaski

 
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    Thompson Elementary School View larger

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    ”Children love the space outside the library because during the day, the lighting changes as the sun moves and you never know what it is going to look like,” said Sheri Donovan, the school’s principal. View larger

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    The library’s reading nook, like many other areas of the building, features wood accents to add a sense of warmth, along with cushions and beanbags that provide comfortable places for students to lounge and use as a breakout space. View larger

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    The library’s reading nook, like many other areas of the building, features wood accents to add a sense of warmth, along with cushions and beanbags that provide comfortable places for students to lounge and use as a breakout space. View larger

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    The recycled rubber gym floor by Advanced Polymer Technology incorporates letters, numbers, and shapes, and encourages the room to be used for both education and fun. View larger

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    The classrooms are bright and open, and include a place for student cubbies, as the school felt it was important to keep them out of the hallway. Informal seating areas, such as this multilevel bench between the kindergarten and first grade classrooms on the ground floor, provide flexible space for active learning and are included on each floor. View larger

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    The classrooms are bright and open, and include a place for student cubbies, as the school felt it was important to keep them out of the hallway. Informal seating areas, such as this multilevel bench between the kindergarten and first grade classrooms on the ground floor, provide flexible space for active learning and are included on each floor. View larger

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    A movable partition can be closed to divide the music area from the gym, which is also used as a multipurpose space. View larger

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    Wall tiles from Daltile change colors as you move from one floor to another, allowing children to use the tiles for orientation between the different floors. View larger

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    A movable partition can be closed to divide the music area from the gym, which is also used as a multipurpose space. View larger

From the moment you approach the Thompson Elementary School in Arlington, Mass., you can tell that it’s different, with its yellow and orange exterior detailing giving it a sense of whimsy. Each element is carefully tailored to its young K-5th grade student and community member audience both inside and out.

Set at an angle on the school grounds, students and visitors won’t approach the “back” of the building no matter which direction they’re coming from, thanks in part to a unique masonry pattern and thoughtful placement of windows. Multiple sidewalks lead to the building from all angles and then converge at one of two main entrances—one of which has a giant steel, yellow pineapple above it—and into the school’s main lobby.

As a design element, the pineapple (a universal symbol of welcome and hospitality) is carried throughout the space, just as the bright colors and whimsical nature of the building’s exterior design are carried in from the exterior and are applied throughout the interior.

The commitment to being a welcoming and hospitable space is evident as soon as you step inside the main entrances and into the lobby, where the office and reception areas are open instead of being closed off by walls.

“At Thompson, it was very clear that they wanted to have this open to everyone, not have all of the back of the house stuff closed off, because they wanted people to feel very welcome,” explained Susan Elmore, marketing manager for HMFH.

The central lobby area also serves as a security feature, allowing visitors to check in, and staff to monitor who is coming and going. The lobby area has clear sightlines to many of the common areas in the school, including the gathering space outside the library on the second floor where students congregate, the cafeteria, and classrooms on the ground floor. This openness and scale is more comfortable for both students and visitors alike, as wayfinding is made easy without signage because key shared-use spaces can be oriented from one central location.


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