The construction of the new Hoover Elementary School solves several issues for the Iowa City Community School District. While the new building will replace the existing Hoover Elementary, it will first act as a swing space for the students at Longfellow, Lincoln, and Mann Elementary Schools while those historic buildings are renovated over the next two years. Then in 2019, Hoover students will move into their new building.
The slope of the former farm field lent itself to an orientation that maximized the southern exposure and views as creating a strong presence from American Legion Road. OPN’s analysis of the site resulted in a recommendation to the city to construct a new street – Barrington Road – which will serve as the main access to the school.
The final design is based on the district’s other two most recent school’s Alexander and Borlaug, both of which were designed by OPN. Like its predecessors a two-story design minimizes the building’s footprint while controlling cost.
The school’s main entrance, punctuated by a column and wall of glazed block both in the school’s signature red, opens to commons. The space, equally vibrant with primary hues of green, blue, and yellow, offers a community area for students to gather before, during, and after school. Modular furniture is arranged between red floor-to-ceiling frames that define the space and offer additional seating. An open staircase, painted yellow, draws the eye up and leads to the second-floor media center. Windows behind the staircase look out to the playground and bring abundant light into the space. On the second story, the media center cantilevers over the first floor, creating drama at the entry.The gym, multipurpose room/cafeteria, art and music rooms, and administrative offices also fill this central core. The academic wings radiate to the east and west. The single-story Pre-K and Kindergarten wing has its own entry, with a cantilevered roof and column replicated from the main entrance. There also is a playground specific to this wing. The Pre-K and Kindergarten wing doubles as a storm shelter for the entire school. Built to current International Building Code standards, the walls are constructed with 12-inch thick CMU with fully grouted cores and 14-inch thick concrete slab roof. All windows are rated to sustain 250 mph winds.
On the opposite end of the building, a two-story wing houses classrooms for the first through sixth grade. The brick classroom wings tie the structure together and allow the center portion of the building to be the connector and a strong architectural focal point. Sunscreens across large windows in the art and music rooms allow light in without glare.