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Perhaps most famous as the backdrop for parts of the HBO series “The Wire,” the East Baltimore area located just north of the Johns Hopkins Medical School is notorious for its high vacancy, poverty, and crime rates. The 125,000-square-foot Henderson-Hopkins K-8 School aims to improve the neighborhood with a progressive learning environment for children and welcoming community spaces woven into the surrounding urban fabric. Rogers Partners’ extroverted and modern school design was the result of a 2011 competition that takes inspiration from East Baltimore’s row houses and stoops, and avoids the typical fortress-like school layout.

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Built to accommodate 720 students, the school campus is a mini-replica of East Baltimore’s urban grid and comprises a cluster of interconnected buildings punctuated by inner courtyards and green space that reduce stormwater runoff and the urban heat-island effect. The interior modular spaces are centered on communal meeting areas and are filled with natural light from large windows and skylights; 90% of the rooms have views to the outdoors. A community center, library, auditorium, and gym bookend one side of the seven-acre site. Nine existing townhouses from 1914 were also gutted and repurposed on site. Optimized mechanical equipment, high-efficiency and automated lighting, and efficient water fixtures reduce energy consumption by 40% and water usage by 30%.

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“This project represents what architecture for education can really be about: enabling students, teachers and community. Our goal was to recover and reimagine an urban fabric rich in opportunity and optimism for East Baltimore,” says Robert M. Rogers, FAIA, principal of Rogers Partners. “In its intentionally porous, safe, urban plan and through the craftsmanship of light, materiality and performance, the design respects history and supports the future of education and of this neighborhood.” The school recently received a 2016 AIA Institute Honor Award of Architecture, the latest in a long list of design awards.

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Images © Albert Vecerka – ESTO