Tampa Heights Elementary School is an integral part of the urban fabric of the historic neighborhood of Tampa Heights. Originally built by volunteers in 1906, a fire in 2017 destroyed everything except the exterior brick walls. The existing brick walls were salvaged and restored. An internal tectonic structure holds the historic mass of the existing walls. The historic walls define the organization of the new steel skeleton structure but cannot live without it. The past shapes the foundations for a forward-thinking school physically and conceptually.
New programmatic requirements for the 400 students school pushed the internal envelope to cut through the historic brick façade on the courtyard side. The floating addition creates a complementary contrast to the heavy existing walls without disturbing the three historic front facades. At the corner of the addition, the tension created between the old and new shears the walls to reveal salvaged historic brick, stitching the addition to the existing.
Internally, programmatic voids connect the 3 stories to activate the school. The main vertical connector becomes the heart of the school with a floating stair, transparency, tiered seating, writable surfaces and reclaimed wood salvaged from the original floors. The steel skeleton is left exposed revealing the tensions in play.
On the second level, the media center is designed as an open, flexible space. Activities in the media center vary from reading books, to classroom and maker space. The transparency of the main vertical connector connects visually and physically the school to the rejuvenated courtyard. The courtyard itself is activated with an exterior amphitheater for school performances. The school acts as a backdrop to the stage.