L. T. Cunningham Elementary School

Houston, TX

Project Description

A new school has replaced the 60-year-old Cunningham Elementary School, located at a busy intersection in a highly diverse community. The new 84,500-square-foot school, which has achieved LEED Gold certification, accommodates 750 students, pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. With a very firm budget and a challenging site, the design team fully acknowledged that the school should continue to be the center of one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in Houston, and responded with a building that not just resists institutional character, but evokes the character of that community.

A strong concern for struggling families with siblings and cousins in attendance became the principal’s motive to keep the current school in operation while the new one was being constructed on the same site. Maintaining the existing building, while erecting a new school, became an architectural opportunity outside of an operational obstacle. The prospective site was pushed to the northern-most area of the property which leveraged the southern half of the site for a new park space. The mature trees maintain the street edge while buffering the student’s play area from the busy street. Designed as two adjacent wings, the brick-clad school provides views to green spaces and away from the busy streets. The building floor plan design divides the program into three distinct components: public or assembly spaces and non-learning spaces; a classroom wing for Pre K –K and non-grade level spaces such as the library; and a classroom wing for grades 1-2 on the first level and grades 3-5 on the upper level. This organization allows for age groups to be consolidated at grade levels while keeping louder assembly spaces separate from administration areas.