AIA Columbus 2017 People’s Choice Winner
Ecole Kenwood French Immersion Elementary School | Fanning Howey
Ecole Kenwood French Immersion Elementary School is an alternative school located near the Kenwood Area of northwestern Columbus, Ohio. As part of the International Feeder Pattern for Columbus International High School, Ecole Kenwood draws students from throughout the city of Columbus, and these students benefit from the strong relationships they build with fellow classmates as they advance through the feeder pattern together. However, those bonds are notinitially present in elementary school, at time when students are leaving their home neighborhoods and friends to come learn at Ecole Kenwood.
Strengthening connections between students and creating a true community atmosphere is the overarching concept behind the design of the new elementary school. The building is arranged as five distinct small learning communities stacked in an efficient two-story academic wing. Library, computer and art program areas connect the communities, allowing students to stay in their academic area for everything other than music, gym, lunch and recess.
The spine of each small learning community is a central thoroughfare called the flex studio. As students walk along the flex studio, they encounter digital presentation hubs, small group areas, galleries for displaying student work, inspirational quote walls and views into other classrooms. The entire experience creates a student-centered environment that grounds children in a strong sense of place and connects students and teachers to one another in a powerful way.
The design concept connects the two-story academic wing and the public areas of the school with a large Gathering Stair that seats 75 to 80 students at one time. With their very own Spanish Steps, students are able to make presentations, participate in large group meetings or sit and listen to a teacher-directed lecture. The Gathering Stair has quickly become a favorite destination within the school, thanks to its inspiring setting. The two-story atrium surrounding the Gathering Stair includes student artwork displays and signage with French quotes that were carefully selected by Ecole Kenwood teachers.
The gym, cafeteria and administration offices are grouped on the south end of the building. Although Ecole Kenwood students come from across the city, the building is still a resource for multiple local community groups, and public areas are zoned for after-hours use of the facility. For example, the Kenwood Area Residents Association uses the café for monthly meetings.
While Ecole Kenwood’s French Immersion curriculum connects students to a global mindset, the careful design of the building grounds children in a strong sense of place and fosters a vibrant educational community.