The current schematic design for the new Sherman High School was presented by VLK Architects at Monday’s board meeting. Although the design may go through additional changes, the schematic design provides the community with the opportunity to see where the project is currently headed.
Project Director Clinton Schiver with VLK Architects explained the schematic design serves as a snapshot in time of the current process for the overall design of the new high school.
“This is about a third of the way through,” Schiver said. “The most important aspect of our process is that we are listening to the community because it is not our high school, it belongs to Sherman. There’s definitely a strength in the unification of one high school. They’re all Bearcats. We had to tour a lot of high schools across the state of Texas to really get a sense of what other communities were doing for their high school students. We cherry picked the very best ideas that fit best with Sherman and its culture. It was really important to see what could be instead of just a different version of what you already have.”
Here are five design aspects that were highlighted in Monday’s presentation:
1. Pride Walk
One design element that is central to the new high school both physically and metaphorically is the Pride Walk.
“For me it is the constant reminder of the community’s input throughout this entire process,” VLK Architects Educational Planner Dalane Bouillion said. “The pride walk starts before you ever get to the front door and is going to be a place where students can celebrate athletics and academics. There’s so much opportunity in the pride walk.”
VLK Architects Project Designer Richard Hunt explained the walk originates at the intersection of West Moore and West Travis Street.
“It goes through the main entry, through the courtyard and connects all the different field sports,” Hunt said. “Competition baseball, competition softball, the field house, practice facility and JV football all get connected to the main building via this walk. The Pride Walk will serve as a path for students to take to the field after a pep rally. It really is a connector for everybody at Sherman to the high school.”
2. Natural space
Another central design feature is the exterior courtyard, which the main building wraps around. Hunt said the inclusion of a courtyard was one of the primary requests received from the community.
“We know the importance of natural light,” Bouillion said. “Students are going to be able to access the courtyard from every aspect of their new high school. Everyone is going to have access to this new courtyard.”
“The other things that take advantage of the courtyard include the fine arts wing,” Hunt said. “The art classrooms have overhead doors and glazing that can open up onto the courtyard. On the other side, the weight room takes advantage of this too. There is a lot of glass for the weight room to look out onto the courtyard. The students can gather in the courtyard. As the students go through the building and transition to different classes, they are always visually connected to this courtyard and that was the main piece of the design.”
3. Making an entrance
The current design creates a focal point for the front of the building with a three-story tower at the main entrance.
“The community expressed a need for an identifiable front main entry as a source of pride,” Hunt said. “They really want the school to stand out and have this identity of it from the street that would scream, ‘This is Sherman High School.’ When we sat down to create this identifiable front door, we ended up using a very traditional element like a tower. It really makes it easy because there is a hierarchical element to the tower that soars above the rest of the facade. This creates an undeniable front entry.”
4. Collaboration space
A tiered learning space, also known as a learning stair, as well as multiple general use areas throughout the main floor will provide different spaces for collaborative learning in the new building.
“Everyone wanted to incorporate the learning stair,” Bouillion said. “I can’t wait to see all the different ways students and teachers will utilize this new learning space. It’s going to be a place where students can gather informally but there is also an opportunity to have pretty formal instruction there as well. It’s truly going to function as a flexible space.”
5. Innovative library
The library at the new high school is planned to be an open, forward thinking space for more than books.
“The library really serves as the heart of the building,” Hunt said. “There’s this openness and inviting environment where kids don’t really see it as a book museum anymore. It’s really somewhere that’s a destination. The architecture of the library is really focused around this large expanse of glass that faces the courtyard. The idea here is to make sure that there is a visual and emotional connection to the courtyard. The idea is that it serves as a media hub for the entire school. It creates this connectivity throughout the building.”