Commodore John Barry Elementary School (USA)


Designer: Ross Barney Architects
Location: Philadelphia, USA
Completion date: 2008
Photos©: Matt Wargo Site
area: 3,995 square metres

1. East elevation of school 2. Main entrance canopy
1. East elevation of school 2. Main entrance canopy 

The new pre K-8 in West Philadelphia for 646 students was built on site of the original school in a residential neighbourhood of 2-storey brick row houses circa early 1900s. The new school was designed in 8 months and constructed in 16 months. Community involvement throughout the process allowed completion on an abbreviated schedule. The four-storey solution, unusual for elementary education, provided over 40% of the approx. 3,995 square metres site as outdoor play space.


Main entry view
Main entry view


Conceptually, the design comprises three horizontal zones. The base zone: the lobby, cafetorium and administrative offices, creates a public commons for the students and the community.

 South elevation
 South elevation 


Pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and special needs classrooms are also on grade. The middle zone contains two identical floors with 1-8 grade classrooms around a two-storey Gymnasium creating “small schools within a school” or grade related instructional clusters. A roof level “learning garden” has special spaces for all the students. Art, music, science, computer, vocational classrooms, and the library include outdoor decks for hands-on learning experiences.

Classroom with views out to neighbourhood
Classroom with views out to neighbourhood

Cafetorium
Cafetorium

Gymnasium
Gymnasium



Glazed brick is used at grade for durability. The metal wall panel system creates a high performance building enclosure while minimising construction time. Wire mesh enclosures give the roof gardens an open and inviting feel.


Circulation hallway looking out to neighbourhood
Circulation hallway looking out to neighbourhood

Main circulation stair with skylight
Main circulation stair with skylight


The school was designed for a LEED Silver rating, but actually received a LEED Gold.

LEED rating
LEED rating


Sustainable features include porous paving, grey water capture and reuse, outdoor views for 95% and day light harvest for 90% of occupied spaces. The design challenge for this project was to provide a first rate academic facility on a tight urban site. To maximise outdoor play area and neighbourhood green space, a four-storey school was designed.



The new school has 46 classrooms. Additional instructional spaces for art, science, vocal music, and technical education were included. The building contains a cafetorium with a stage area and warming kitchen, a gymnasium with locker and shower areas and an Instructional media centre, with a computer classroom, conference rooms and a library.


1. Vestibule 2. Lobby 3. Cafeteria 4. Kitchen 5. Offices 6. Multi-function room 7. Storage 8. Classroom
1. Vestibule 2. Lobby 3. Cafeteria 4. Kitchen 5. Offices 6. Multi-function room 7. Storage 8. Classroom



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