Cole Middle School Earns AIA RI Honor Award


SMMA's design for the Archie R. Cole Middle School was given an Honor Award by the Rhode Island Chapter of the American Institute of Architects along with special congressional recognition. The AIA Rhode Island cited the contextual nature of the project and celebrated the Cole Middle School for its sensitive massing and imaginative use of natural light.

The Cole Middle School, which accommodates 573 students 6th, 7th and 8th grade, represents the latest thinking in producing learning spaces for Middle School students, teachers and administrators. To enhance both behavior and learning, the academic west wing of the school is divided into six social units of less than 100 students each. These social units, or team teaching areas, are comprised of four core classrooms and a teacher planning area. Team teaching is based on the premise that the best learning takes place in an intimate environment in which the child shares a supportive bond with peers and a family of teachers and advisors.

The design team was challenged to put a 110,000-square-foot building in an established residential neighborhood. To avoid the appearance of being out of scale for the neighborhood, SMMA created a stepped design that integrates with the residential community by locating the highest point of the building central to the site and stepping the building down to the residential street. The plan of the school is a long, narrow configuration organized along an east/west axis that optimizes solar orientation and allows rainwater to be harvested from the long, sloping roofs. Other sustainable features of the building include high-performance glazing to optimize daylight harvesting, skylights and clerestory windows with daylight sensors, sunshades on the southern façade to control sunlight, high performance lighting with energy performance 30% above code, demand control ventilation that lessens the need for air conditioning and a 50 kw photovoltaic system.