Winchester Thurston School, North Hills Campus

Winchester Thurston School, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

The Winchester Thurston North Hills Campus project's primary vision is to create a learner-centered facility that responds sensitively to its environment and community. It is also understood that to be successful, the project must be affordable. We responded by creating a master plan that, typical of the original property and many traditional farmsteads, organizes a group of individual, but related buildings to create a campus. Programmed phases afforded expansion as needs became urgent and funds became available. The choice of rural house imagery, scale, and materials was not only cost-effective but also referenced the surrounding community and the site's history as a farm.

The design vocabulary (red gabled roofs, blue clapboard siding, and white-trimmed windows) references residential buildings familiar to young children--creating a schoolhouse rather than an instructional institution. Low windows, curved handrails, and playful details reinforce a sense of welcome and comfort, establishing it as a place for children, a place of energy and excitement, order without rigid structure. The Library-Lobby at the entrance provides a special place for books and art, according a place of honor to these artifacts of knowledge and creativity. Outdoor, hands-on learning is given proper emphasis in the Pond House's environmental laboratory, among other outdoor learning spaces.

Teachers, parents, and community members were involved directly in the planning and design processes. In response to requests, outdoor gathering spaces were designed to specifically avoid interfering with classroom instruction as well as with neighboring residences. Students contributed to the process by writing about their favorite aspects of Phase 1 prior to the design of Phase II, and art classes designed a mural to illustrate the newly planned buildings. Community members were instrumental to the process through their support of the zoning and variance processes, and by participating in a number of neighborhood feedback meetings and fundraisers.


2008 Citation of Merit
AIA Pennsylvania
2007 Design Award
AIA Committee on Architecture for Education
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News: Winchester Thurston North School Wins AIA Educational Design Award