Upper Merion Area High School, Upper Merion Area School District
After a community-engaged master planning process and two successful new elementary school projects, Upper Merion Area School District (UMASD) began the process of creating a flagship facility to house the upper secondary programs for the District. A thorough process was utilized including multiple user meetings and tours of state-of-the-art facilities throughout the United States.
The intent behind the facility is to provide career and higher education level spaces for the students of UMASD to engage in the 21st century learning activities of; research, develop and present! Multiple hi-tech industry work spaces as well as contemporary higher education spaces were studied in the process of the development of this unique facility.
The proposed 345,000 SF facility connects to the existing middle school facility through the athletic facilities creating a full secondary campus. The resulting facility will provide enriching opportunities for students from the traditional 6th grade through 12th grade ages.
A true “student commons” is the heart of the facility and will be an “all-day” area for multiple activities. The student commons is a two-story atrium space with learning resources on the second level enhancing the research-and project-based components mixed with dining and food-based opportunities. After hours, the commons space will provide pre-and post-activities for the athletic and performing arts complexes. A full competition gymnasium and competition swimming venue will be the connector to the middle school. The performing arts complex is a complete 650-seat theater with balcony and all supporting spaces.
Student services and technology distribution and support spaces are located between the commons space and the academic area. A 3-story academic wing supports the core academic programs with a STEAM based center, multiple project and team-based spaces and a three-story learning stair. The learning stair connects all core programs vertically to enhance the cross-pollinization of learning activities. Transparency is a key aspect of the facility’s design and is utilized to promote the visual connection between each of the learning activities.
The new facility will be constructed while the existing high school on site is still occupied. Once complete the existing facility will be demolished and new playing fields will be constructed in the place of the existing facility. A unique site feature is an underground stream bisecting the site. The project chooses to highlight that challenge by exposing the stream at its outfall within a new outdoor amphitheater and teaching area. This outdoor space will enhance internal building program opportunities by connecting them to the exterior. The stream will provide for science-based learning activities directly on campus. The UMASD students will have additional tremendous learning opportunities once this facility is complete.