Occupying a former 1930s-era corporate office building, Black River Public School (BRPS) is a college-preparatory K-12 charter school with an emphasis on experiential education and independent thinking. BRPS has transformed itself into one of the highest-ranked high schools in Michigan and has a growing waiting list.
The school faced several challenges with its COST PER SQ FT$138.88FEATURED IN2007 Architectural PortfolioSUB CATEGORYSpecialized facility. The basement-level music rooms had been adapted poorly for acoustics and sightlines; no physical-education space resided on campus; and the cafeteria was a sequence of smaller rooms serving many other functions.
In 2002, the architect was hired to complete a campus master plan. The first phase included a new 20,000-square-foot music and physical-education building behind the existing facility. The design is a simple rectangle with the “lyceum” serving as a shared space for the new cafeteria, gym lobby and circulation space. A combination of tinted concrete block, zinc shingles, translucent panels and glass for the exterior provides abundant natural light, reflects the diversity of color in the original building’s brick, and references the heritage of its former industrial site.
Sustainability played a crucial role in the design. By choosing a designated brownfield site and reusing carpet tiles, light fixtures and other materials donated by a Holland-based office furniture manufacturer, BRPS was able to save a considerable amount of money and contributed to the LEED certification process for the office furniture manufacturer’s new headquarters.
Natural light also plays an important role throughout the building. Translucent panels cap the gymnasium for plenty of daytime light, and extensive use of glass on the south wall of the lyceum with deep overhangs and vertical piers provide views to the outside without glare. The “piano key” windows provide diffuse north light into the music rooms, as well as communicate the nature of what takes place within.