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St. Coletta School

Washington DC, USA
Drawing of the building in relation to the site
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Drawing of the building in relation to the site
Michael Graves & Associates

St. Coletta is a nonprofit charter school that serves individuals with cognitive disabilities, autism, and physical disabilities.

Guided by the school’s philosophy that all children are special, the architects Michael Graves & Associates, addressed formal, functional, social and ecological concerns in the design. The outcome is a facility that is being promoted as a national model for the USA.

The 30,000 square meter building has its largest elements, the entrance and common facilities, along Independence Avenue. These are expressed as geometric pavilions clad in colorful glazed tile.

Instructional suites for 50-70 students are articulated as a series of “houses” with private gardens, each relating to the scale of the adjacent residential neighborhood along 19th Street. Internally, the houses front onto a double-height common space called the “village green.” The interior of each house is painted a different color, which becomes a way-finding device and also helps the students identify with their “community,” a vital part of the school’s teaching philosophy.