New School by Svigals + Partners Illustrates Power of Design for Education

Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) in West Haven, Conn., on the campus of the University of New Haven

STEAM education intertwines both scientific and artistic mindsets, promoting the kind of 21st-century skills that students need: discipline, flexible thinking, risk-taking and creative problem-solving…

If STEAM education is about integrating science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics into a project-based learning environment, shouldn’t school buildings for these specialized studies mirror the same foundations? The acclaimed architecture, art and advisory firm Svigals + Partners has arrived at an answer this year, completing the innovative Engineering and Science University Magnet School (ESUMS) in West Haven, Conn.

Accommodating grades 6-12, the impressive and modern school integrates artwork and experiential, didactic building concepts on the inspiring grounds of a private university. Spanning about 122,000 square feet in five stories, the learning environments are housed behind cantilevered glass facades and feature novel amenities and design elements specifically geared toward the ESUMS curriculum. “STEAM education intertwines both scientific and artistic mindsets, promoting the kind of 21st-century skills that students need: discipline, flexible thinking, risk-taking and creative problem-solving,” says Jay Brotman, AIA, managing partner for Svigals+Partners.

At ESUMS, student and teacher collaborations are supported by architecture, beginning with flexible classroom designs. Glass partitions open up to hallway learning spaces that widen on each end, where ESUMS students read or coordinate on cushy chairs and couches. Two unique features of the Svigals + Partners design include long, cantilevered wings suggesting train cars, and their highly insulating facades with louvered blinds to control interior heating — examples of the school building’s design concepts that remind students about such scientific notions as mass, stress, gravity and conductance.

“The building also includes a range of maker-spaces that allow students to create models and other objects from their studies using 3-D printers and special software,” says Julia McFadden, AIA, an…

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