“It is the spirit of the child that can determine the course of human progress and lead it perhaps even to a higher form of civilization.” — Maria Montessori
By Scott Boylston
Re-using an old building (and installing efficiency retro-fits) can be more sustainable than building a new one, and that’s true even if it means moving that old building (or 8 or 9 of them) across town. So, when the board of directors for the Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School and the school’s principal learned about the Emergent Structures Project, their interest was instantly piqued.
The Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School has been looking for permanent buildings since its inception two years ago. Presently housed in trailers on a 14-acre parcel of property on Buckhalter Road in western Savannah, this fledgling public charter school has its heart set on investing in green architecture.
After a visit to Savannah Gardens two weeks ago with architect Patrick Shay, plans are now underway to either build new structures made of building materials harvested from Savannah Gardens, or to roll several of these buildings in their present state across Savannah, plop them down onto the school’s property, then renovate the buildings for classrooms.
If the latter scenario plays out, the structures would be refurbished to incorporate high efficiency technologies, and designed carefully throughout the landscape to maximize the ‘village’ concept of an open-air-campus.
Principal Tanya Melville, winner of the 2008 Deana Burgess Outstanding Partner in Teacher Education Award for her work as Educational Director at her previous job, Montessori of Macon, prefers to describe the resulting architecture as Vernacular Funk. While the old building would be fully refurbished, visual access to the buildings structural elements would be provided for the sake of historical reference. Repurposing the building structures to house classrooms in a learning village would allow easy access to nature and the many gardens (edible and otherwise) that are planned for the campus. If the former scenario of using harvested building materials is carried out, plans may revolve around a design that resulted from an earlier design charette with SCAD architecture students.
In the interest of full disclosure, the relationship between Emergent Structures and Coastal Empire Montessori may not have developed—or would have otherwise taken longer to emerge—if my twin girls, Francesca and Makenzie, had not started attending Coastal Empire Montessori Charter School in Fall 2009. As it turns out, my wife, Kristin, was attending a board meeting when the pressing need for new buildings came up, and she eagerly mentioned the Emergent Structures Project.
We’ll keep you updated on progress