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Tappe Architects


Winchester, Massachusetts


Completed 2013

Vinson Owen Elementary School

Warner Larson assisted the Project Architect in locating the new building to avoid deep existing fills, steep topography and other natural resource areas. The topography dramatically drops over 50 feet across the property. These constraints informed the site design to an organized and compact layout.

The school’s play areas have been separated for age appropriate play, and dispersed around the building to benefit from the interior programming. Additionally, to conserve costs the previous school’s play equipment will be salvaged, brought up to code, and reinstalled in new locations. A school garden with raised planting beds for students and faculty creates an outdoor environment centered around learning.

At the front of the school, a primary pedestrian spine was established from the bus drop-off providing a pedestrian-safe route. Many students walk to this school, and will share this ceremonial and convenient walk. Another walking path will connect into the natural areas beyond, and provide access to the adjacent Vinson-Owen Nature Park. This outdoor classroom covers about 7.5 acres, and is a resource for studying science, writing, history and art.

The planting concept at the elementary school replicates and connects with the surrounding natural plant communities. Additionally, as part of Massachusetts CHPS (Collaborative for High-Performance Schools) criteria, this planting was selected to be drought-tolerant, minimize maintenance and provide seasonal interest.