How do you bring learning in community to an urban school?

St. Martin de Porres High School

  • LocationCleveland, Ohio, USA
  • TypeRenovation / New Wing
  • Size80,000 SF

Situated in downtown Cleveland, the school’s learning spaces needed to reflect the businesses in students’ professional internship programs. St. Martin de Porres students, many of whom are from underserved communities, are placed in internships with local businesses so that they can begin developing the communication, interpersonal skills, and work ethic that will serve them well in their future careers. Phase one of their new Master Plan involved renovating and adding on to one of their existing satellite buildings and creating a professional center for student study.

The school needed to be an inspiration to communities everywhere. It needed to solve a problem often seen in urban education where kids are not fully engaged, they are frustrated, and what they see in their schools is not what they see in their neighborhoods.

Fielding was engaged to reimagine what learning could look like to support this unique educational program. Since students are off-site 1-2 days per week working in a corporate environment, it was essential to imagine spaces that would be seamless between school and work – spaces where learning and working are authentically connected.

Design Patterns and Discovery Workshops were held with school leadership, teachers, students, parents, and other school community members to build consensus and identify guiding principles for the design. Emerging themes from workshops identified patterns for learning spaces that needed to be designed for content, cognitive and social-emotional competencies.

The new St. Martin de Porres High School was envisioned as a center in the community, and a launching pad for students to reach their dreams of meaningful and rewarding work beyond it.

Renovating a vintage building and adding on to it created a sophisticated office environment that echoes the internship spaces that students engage with. This professional atmosphere encourages students to model their learning the way they do their internships.

The design pulls from an innovative, modern workplace – it is open, flexible and collaborative – for students to work together and with teachers. We wanted the students to feel a seamless transition from school to work. New learning communities have a variety of spaces and settings that you would experience in a work environment. This agile environment allows for flexible activity and student choice for learning space – from independent study to group gathering. Students have a high-degree of freedom to learn that reflects their working experiences.

Our new building is a state-of-the-art facility that enhances our interdisciplinary project-based learning communities. It ensures our students are fully prepared for what they will see and experience in college, and eventually in their workplaces.

The ground floor embraces socialization as the public area, featuring administration, a chapel, and café/commons area. Outdoors, a café and project area are surrounded by a small nature space, designed for reflective introspection. The second floor contains education spaces, counseling and another small common area. Furnishings and surfaces were carefully selected and sophisticated, with meeting rooms and tech amenities similar to those in modern workplaces.

The addition contains materials that echo the adjoining vintage building and main high school building across the street. There are zones for individual and group learning, and lots of transparency when spaces are enclosed for sound control. Learning spaces can connect or separate like they do in the corporate world. All the surroundings are designed to create respect and a professional attitude in the student body.

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Design Patterns

Active Hallway
Small Group Rooms
Cave Space
Dispersed Technology
Neighborhood as School
Personalized Student Storage
Variable Seating
Writable Surfaces
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