Firm: Marlon Blackwell Architects
Contractor: Hill + Wilkinson
Location: Dallas, TX
Owner/Client: The Lamplighter School
Project Team: Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Meryati Blackwell, AIA, LEED, AP BD+C, Bradford Payne, AIA, Spencer Curtis, AIA, Stephen Reyenga, Assoc. AIA, Cydney Jaggers, Assoc. AIA, Stephen Kesel, AIA, Kertis Weatherby, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Jonathan Boelkins, AIA
Consultants: Reed, Wells, Benson, and Company, Raymond L. Goodson Jr. Inc., Talley Associates, Inc., Essential Light, Access by Design
Since the founding of the Lamplighter School in 1953, The School has provided a unique learning environment for pre-kindergarten to fourth grade students. Initially designed by O’Neil Ford in the late 1960s, the campus of The Lamplighter School enjoys a rich architectural heritage, highlighted by open learning spaces, a close relationship with nature, and a “village” composition. The architecture reflects the School’s teaching and learning styles and is complemented by the additions Frank Welch designed in the 1980s and 1990s.
In 2014, a new master plan envisioned a reorganized campus circulation and established a complex series of renovations, additions, and new construction to meet the growing needs of the Lamplighter School. Along with a new Innovation Lab nearby, the Red Barn is a critical piece of the new master plan and expresses the educational values and vision of the School. The curriculum is focused on engaging students with their surroundings, inspiring them to explore, discover, take risks, and make choices. The pedagogy of the school creates independent and responsible students, forever learners who follow their passions. With this mission in mind the school needed to develop a new barn that empowers Lamplighter’s Environmental Science program which has always been an innovative and joyful addition to the curriculum of the school.
The new Red Barn replaces a former teaching barn and separate chicken coop that had fallen into disrepair. The new site combines the once separate programs and is surrounded by an extensive outdoor education environment (beautiful gardens, bird viewing stations, and the creek) supporting moments that cultivate students enthusiasm and curiosity. With immediate access to the rustic creek area, large greenhouse and composting bins, a variety of garden experiences (community grade level gardens, butterfly, vegetable, herb, flower, and wildflower gardens), the Red Barn classroom facilities provide creative outlets for learning and entrepreneurship situated in the landscape of the campus.
Clad in painted cypress, the profile of the Red Barn immediately calls to mind a typical barn, but reinvents it, scaled for children. This burst of color, in an otherwise restrained campus, illustrates the importance of the Barn in the education the Lamplighter School provides. Rather than being pushed to the edges of campus, the barn is paired with the Innovation Lab, a low-tech partner that reinforces engagement with the soil and with wildlife. With an entry porch that faces the main campus to the south, the Barn has a spacious interior classroom that gives way to an integrated chicken coop and run. The proximity of the classroom to the chickens and the surrounding gardens is a distinct feature of the Barn, giving students the rare opportunity to operate a small, functioning farm while in elementary school. The sale of eggs to the local community fosters entrepreneurial skills among the students and while the older students run the program they serve as mentors for the younger students. The younger students learn from their peers how to run the business in addition to taking care of the chickens. The lessons learned in the barn enforce the school’s mission and the barn itself is a physical manifestation of the pedagogy of the school, one that encourages the student’s independence and self-determination.