CASE STUDY: Denver School of Science & Technology, Denver

Owner: Denver Public Schools
Architect: klipp—Brian Klipp, FAIA, design principal; Greg Cromer, AIA, managing principal; Sam Miller, AIA, project architect; Keat Tan, AIA, design architect; Jason Finnegan, Job Captain; Dionne Koehler, Interior Designer
Conultants: Swanson Rink (mep); JVA Consulting Engineers (structural); Olsson Associates (civil); Nuszer Kopatz Urban Design Associates (landscape); D.L. Adams Associates (acoustical); M.A. Mortenson Company (design-build contractor)

Masonry: Endicott Brick
Glazing: Viracon
Plastic laminate: Wilsonart

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Building Great K-12 Schools in Economically Challenging Times
In these tough times making good school design decisions has never been more difficult or more important. To find out how some of the nation’s top architects and administrators are coping with these challenges attend Architectural Record’s Schools of the 21st Century Symposium. It will be held Friday, April 9th, at the Hyatt McCormick Place in Chicago, the day before the NSBA Conference. The event is free of charge and is being presented with the support of McGraw-Hill Education and the American Architectural Foundation.

Click here for more information.

A Learning Community
Dynamic and adaptable spaces serve hands-on education at a charter school with a science, math, and technology focus
By Joann Gonchar, AIA

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On a 10-acre parcel at the southern edge of the master-planned community that is emerging on the site of Denver’s former Stapleton International Airport, educators at an unusual high school are working to provide its diverse student body with a rigorous science, math, and technology focused liberal arts education.

South-facing courtyards between each classroom cluster extend the instructional space to the exterior (above). DSST’s two-story school building is a pleasing and colorful collection of brick, stucco, and metal-clad volumes (below). Photo © James H. Berchert.

The Denver School of Science & Technology (DSST) is not a neighborhood school, however. Few of its 400 students are Stapleton residents. DSST is a public charter school that admits students from the entire metropolitan area by lottery only. Low-income students make up at least 40 percent of each class, and at least 45 percent are girls. All are expected to attend four-year colleges, despite varying degrees of academic preparation before high school.

To house the ambitious program, officials imagined a building “where kids could feel good about coming to school and about being involved in the sciences,” says David Ethan Greenberg, DSST founder and member of its board of directors. The school’s architect, klipp, responded with a colorful building made up of a pleasing collection of different sized volumes clad in brick, stucco, and metal. The facility opened in January 2005, after DSST spent is first semester of operation in temporary quarters at a parochial school.

During school hours, little lighting is needed to supplement daylight in spaces like the galleria. Photo © James H. Berchert.

The $9.9 million project was funded through several sources, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Colorado Small Schools Initiative. Denver Public Schools contributed $5 million in bond funds, and Stapleton’s developer donated the site.

The 65,883-square-foot, two-story building is organized along a double-height east-west circulation spine and gathering space called the “galleria.” The cafeteria and gymnasium are at the eastern terminus of this spine with a dedicated entrance, allowing use of these facilities during non-school hours.

Along the galleria, on the first floor, are administrative offices, science labs, project rooms, and three classroom clusters. Each cluster contains a faculty office and a “studio” for individual or group study. The proximity and a visual connection between the classrooms and the studio allow teachers to supervise both spaces simultaneously, points out Sam Miller, AIA, klipp associate principal.

The classrooms are designed for adaptability, with moveable furniture and operable walls. The instructional space even extends to the exterior of the building: each classroom has direct access to south-facing courtyards where the building’s wireless network can also be used. The school can accommodate “project-based learning with a variety of flexible environments,” says Miller.

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