It’s All About Open Air
As the pandemic forced societies to adapt, it spurred great innovation. For example, as architects who design for academic institutions, we’ve seen the many ways campuses pivoted to keep their students engaged while mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. These changes are also manifest right in our backyard.
At the Chester Elementary School, a member of our staff, Cassie Archer, volunteered earlier this year to design an open-air meeting space. Spearheaded by the school’s former principal Lol Fearon and his wife Charlene, an educator there for 36 years, the timber-frame structure is a smashing success. The community seized the opportunity to encourage open-air learning and to make a safe and joyful place for groups to gather. Equipped with translucent writable wall panels, its southern yellow pine structure holds aloft a roof made of interlocking polycarbonate sheets. On a recent visit, we observed happy students and their teacher using the space for a lesson as friends took a mask break nearby.
Chester’s open air meeting space caught the eye of the Essex Elementary School across the street from our office. Its parent and teacher organization has engaged us to conceive its own outdoor classroom. With a clever design by Cassie and principal Todd Andrews, we hope that our town follows Chester’s lead to make another dynamic space for student and public engagement.