Commodore John Barry School

Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Program: Pre-Kindergarten to 8th Grade School
LEED Certification: Gold
Status: Complete, 2008
Photography: © Matt Wargo

The Commodore John Barry Elementary School accommodates 646 students from pre-kindergarten through 8th Grade on Philadelphia’s west side. The site is bounded on all four sides by 2 story brick row houses, dating to the early 1900’s. The design challenge was to provide a first rate academic facility on a gritty, tight urban site. The building preserves over 40% of the site as open space. This space was developed for early childhood play areas, as well as hard and soft surfaced play areas for older children. To maximize outdoor play area and neighborhood green space, a four-story school was designed with at grade play areas and roof gardens adjacent to 4th floor classrooms. The design divides the school into three vertical zones. The base zone houses functional spaces including the lobby, cafetorium and administrative offices. The middle zone consists of two identical floors that containing classrooms. The classrooms are arranged to create smaller internal communities, either “small schools within a school” or grade related instructional clusters. The two story Gymnasium occupies the center of the middle zone. The additional instruction spaces are located at the top level of the school. Classrooms for arts and science and the instructional media center share outdoor decks that can be used for hands-on learning experiences.