Rockwood Youth Campus Complete

Rockwood Youth Campus Complete

Three non-profit organizations—Open School, Boys & Girls Club of Portland, and New Avenues for Youth—came together to create a two-building, 3.5-acre non-profit campus to support the Rockwood neighborhood’s community of underserved youth. The campus includes Open School East, the Rockwood Boys & Girls Club, the New Avenues Youth Opportunity Center, and outdoor sports courts.

The campus delivers safe, stable, and inspiring places for kids of all ages to learn, play, and socialize. The design concept of each building supports and elevates its mission. The concurrent design and development of the two buildings enabled the organizations to create shared facilities that reduced initial capital investment. The entrances of both buildings face the re-established continuation of Oak Street, now a through street, creating a safe drop-off area away from busy Stark Street.

The final piece of the phased development, the New Avenues Youth Opportunity Center opened in February. Located in a tenant space within the Boys & Girls Club building, the Center provides services and resources for homeless, at-risk, and foster youth.

The new Rockwood Boys & Girls Club aims to attract and inspire the youth of the Rockwood community after school and on weekends. The club includes a secure entry with interior bike parking, gymnasium, kids’ café, learning center, youth and family services space, an art studio, space for a nonprofit partner, and a soccer field. While Boys & Girls Club programs make use of the café, gym, and other spaces during after school and weekend hours, the synergy of uses enables Open School to use those areas during school hours.

The new Boys & Girls Club balances safe outdoor spaces, visual transparency, and clear sightlines for safety and security purposes with attractive, “grown-up” design that appeals to the Club’s members. A protected courtyard entrance brings plentiful daylight into the interior spaces. Protected ground floor spaces promote security, and clerestory windows and skylights bring in additional daylight. The gym and classrooms on the ground floor feature fritted glass with supergraphics that allow views out but not in from the outside. A ribbon of yellow painted walls and ceilings leads members though the building and connects the major spaces, signaling to members of all ages that they are a part of a unified club.

The design incorporates an existing 7,000 square foot former garden center building into the larger structure as a dedicated teen center serving kids aged 13-18. The gabled steel of the existing structure’s roof line continues into the gym as a design feature. The teen center includes a music recording studio, computer labs, an innovation station for teen learning, and a suspended “night sky” ceiling feature within the pitched roof of the reused structure that distinguishes it from the separate junior center (for ages 6-12).

The Club’s sustainable features include a courtyard, skylights, and clerestory windows that bring light to the interior spaces, an ultra-efficient building envelope, regionally-sourced building materials, VOC-free interior finishes, right-sized mechanical systems, native landscaping, and preservation of existing old growth trees on the site.

Open School East is an innovative college-prep school that prepares students who have struggled in traditional public school for success in college, career, and community. Serving grades 7-12, Open School features a robust program that supports students at risk of dropping out to reengage them with academics. The program is designed to inspire, spark learning, and transform lives.

The design of the building reinforces the school’s model of support and openness: it provides eleven classrooms, two science labs, an art studio, and administrative spaces arranged on two floors around a double-height gathering space. The building’s character and spatial organization better resemble a university building rather than a high school—a nod to preparing students for college and reinforcing their confidence to succeed academically.

The physical form of the building supports the school’s approach. The volumes that house the classrooms are shifted along the edges of the central space, creating informal seating nooks off the corridors at the building’s four corners. These spaces bring daylight into the hallways and accommodate small-group instruction, individual tutoring, small staff meetings, and informal check-ins.

A central, cascading bleacher stair of reclaimed wood anchors both floors and allows the school to come together as a community. The space hosts a wide range of formal and informal activities.  A two-story white board wall can be used as a blackboard, movie screen, or backdrop for presentations.

Inspirational quotes punctuate the building, such as one from the late actor, Christopher Reeve: “A hero is an ordinary person who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” The school’s commitment to eliminate race and poverty as predictors of student achievement inspired the building’s wayfinding. Each classroom is dedicated to a hero—following Reeve’s definition—who was an advocate for social justice and equality. A large black-and-white portrait of a hero marks the entrance to each classroom.

Key sustainable features include carefully considered use of fenestration with a window wall ratio of 20%, locally sourced brick that is produced within ten miles of the site, highly efficient LED lighting, and solar-ready infrastructure. All interior finishes have Green Guard certification and low VOC content. Each classroom and office space has means for natural ventilation. Large windows in the classrooms and skylights in the central atrium deliver daylight throughout the building.

About 85% of Open School’s students live in poverty. Open School East takes a different approach than a traditional, comprehensive high school. Small class sizes, two adults in every class, and a focus on social justice and wrap-around services help the school meet the diverse needs and challenges each student faces. Their students have advanced an average of 2.5 grade levels in math and reading in their first year at Open School.

The school opened for the 2016 school year with 135 students in grades 7-9 and plans to add another grade level each year to serve a total of 270 students.


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