LAN Associates was awarded the Outstanding Project Award from national education publication, Learning by Design, for the design of the new 87,000 sf Ross Street Elementary School. The facility was built to embrace 21st century learning, and it has already forever changed education in Woodbridge, NJ.
As you walk through the school you can feel the architect’s concerted effort to ensure every aspect of the layout and design inspires engagement and imagination, while enabling curriculum flexibility and promoting student wellness. Natural light emanates from the atrium courtyard’s large, glass curved windows and peers into hallways fitted with breakout spaces. A creative commons engages and encourages student creativity. Color coded accents provide wayfinding as children make their way to modern classrooms designed as flex learning spaces with integrated technology.
“With Ross Street elementary we had the opportunity to help Woodbridge reimagine and reinvigorate early childhood education,” said LAN Associates President and Project Executive Ken Karle when asked about the project. “We wanted to create something that would be seen by the community as more than just a school. For the young students we created a home away from home that motivates, inspires, and comforts, and for the town we wanted to create a new sense of neighborhood pride.”
Since construction finished, Ross Street Elementary School has achieved notoriety on many fronts. In June of 2021, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy chose the location to highlight investment in the Garden State’s future when he held a press conference in the new gymnasium at Ross Street where he signed New Jersey’s largest ever budget into law.
The new school was the result of a rapidly expanding Woodbridge student population and an existing facility that could not support 21st century learning techniques. LAN designed the new school in two phases on the existing site so students would not be displaced during construction.
With an emphasis on integrating nature throughout the building, the new $33M three-story school is centered around a large atrium courtyard. The courtyard houses a small amphitheater for outdoor lessons, several “living learning” gardens, and seating areas.
“The central courtyard is brilliant, not only for the abundance of natural light that fills the corridors, but for the visual connections it provides across the building from one corridor to another gives a sense of ‘one-ness to the whole place,” said the jury at Learning by design. “The Creative Commons is quite large and thoughtfully planned in a central location for equitable access by all. It offers limitless possibilities with flexible furniture, soft seating options, media solutions, cubbies, whiteboard and natural light.”
Within the corridors, LAN designed various breakout spaces that include soft seating and informal learning spaces that create a personal and intimate environment. A new Creative Commons combines aspects of a traditional media center with a makerspace, creating a large learning area. A vertical LEGO surface entices students to collaborate and showcase their creativity. Hidden within the bookcases are “cocoons” where students and teachers can take their favorite book, laptop, or creation for a moment away from the buzz of activity.
The new elementary school has already had a huge impact on the school district. The full-service kitchen accommodates other surrounding schools that lack appropriately sized kitchen to service their students. The district is now able to provide for at least three other schools, while still prepping more than enough for their students.
Ross Street Elementary School is a defining example for forward thinking school design. Its design was the result of a collaborative process that included feedback from students, teachers, and local officials. The result is a facility that will serve the town for generations and make a true and lifelong positive impact on its graduates.
The Ross Street Elementary School project was recognized by Learning by Design magazine for being a “modern learning environment, that exhibits many design attributes that others may emulate.” Every project featured in the publication is peer-reviewed and judged by a jury that evaluates unique and new concepts being implemented to improve education facility building design. Projects are scored on six measures: Innovation, Community Need, Interior Design, Sustainability, Functional Design, and 21st Century Learning.