Lambert Ezell Durham Architecture in Florence, AL, received the Alabama Concrete Industries Association’s “Top Block Award,” which recognized the use of concrete in its winning design of Florence Middle School.
The design for the 180,000 square-foot facility took about a year and a half from research, programming, schematic design through design development and construction documents. After construction began, the building was completed about 21 months later and opened its doors in February of this year.
As with all newly constructed educational facilities, security was integrally designed using clear lines of sight, electronically controlled public access and secure student spaces inside and out. The gymnasium also doubles as the storm shelter, which accommodates 3x the current student population.
The floor plan was designed around a central Commons area connecting academics, fine arts and athletics while also serving as a pre-function space for public events. The academic wing’s prominent two-story facade was placed west of the Commons, taking advantage of traffic visibility along the campus’ west edge while wrapping itself around an outdoor courtyard with controlled access.
The exterior of the building was in response to Florence City Schools’ request for the building to have a more ‘classical, timeless appearance.’
Calvin Durham, lead project and design architect, explained why concrete was used throughout the new school.
“Concrete posed the best material for the project’s overall durability, longevity and maintenance, as well as being economical,” said Durham. “With the exception of the auditorium, gymnasium and offices, the flooring throughout the school is polished concrete, the walls are concrete block and the exterior is a combination of face brick and cast stone.”
Concrete served as the best building product mainly for its strength and durability, as well as minimal upkeep, which schools always strive for in their buildings. The use of nominal concrete block for the walls also give the large walls a sense of human scale due to the block sizes. Fire rated walls and loading bearing walls are created out of a single material that also serves as the finish face as well.
Other features include:
-an 800 seat auditorium
-student collaboration spaces
-multiple student cafeteria seating options, including outdoor seating, central locker area, and a large prefunction Commons space.