Back to School

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With buzzards circling over the global real estate market, don’t be surprised if a business development person from Skidmore, Owings and Merrill knocks on your front door and offers to design a tool shed for you. If there’s a bright spot to these dire times it’s that architects will have to refocus their attention on more socially-conscious projects–in other words, the exact opposite of this project.

Metropolis magazine reports on some high-profile architects who are already moving in that direction by designing new primary and secondary schools. The fees can’t be much compared to working for a New York or London developer, but the projects aren’t altogether different from more lucrative private-sector projects. Rafael Viñoly Archi­tects, for instance, are placing a green roof on a Bronx high school. Skills developed while working for Middle Eastern petro states can be repurposed for designing a American school in Doha, Qatar. Sustainability takes on a whole new meaning for a Kansas town nearly wiped out by a mile-wide tornado; Bob Berkebile and his firm BNIM Architects have been commissioned to build a single K-12 school for the entire town. The primary new challenge for architects working on these projects: where to put the athletic fields. A 400-meter track takes up a lot of space and there’s pretty much only one way to lay it out.

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