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The School Building Committee met with the architects for the Conte School project on Monday.

North Adams School Project Integrates History Into Design

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The Conte School renovation will include historical moments from the century-old building.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conte School renovation will include teaching lessons in energy and history.

At least 10 historical elements will be mapped out around the building, "little moments around the school," said Dorrie Brooks of Margo Jones Architects. "We will do more research to put historic images up."

Brooks showed an example integrating of the school's many slate blackboards creating an historical moment with the school's 1924 basketball team to the School Building Committee on Monday night.

In fact, the blackboards will be used as part of the finishing touches on the ground floor, creating a unique, sealed wainscoting along the hall to the cafeteria. Oversized historical photos will be installed inside the cafeteria.

Explorations into the structure of the building are also exposing brick walls, arched doors and windows and original elements of the former Drury High School and its predecessor.

Those openings include the arched doorways to the balcony above the original gym that will be restored as architectural elements in the new library.

"You can stand on the second floor in the library and look into the gym," Brooks said, with Margo Jones adding the tempered glass would cover the openings.

It was already decided that one old Drury wall would be exposed on the exterior but another one was found in what will be the music room.

"There will be a kind of funny moment there," Brooks said. "That's where we tell about the history of the school. ...

"These are pretty priceless moments in history."

The team will need to do more research, she said, and work with the city's Historic Commission.

"I love the idea," Mayor Richard Alcombright said. "That's one of the things that will give this more character than it already has."

Brooks said the school sustainability would also be taken into consideration in the curriculum and it was likely the building could be silver LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, certified or better.

Much of score would be through the reuse of the nearly century-old building and its location to the downtown areas and potential for nature studies on its grounds.

"We're pursuing LEED as a teaching tool ... learning about sustainability by whatever we've designed into the school," Brooks said. "We are discussing how we might interpret the building."  

The mayor asked if it was possible to video the progress to create something similar to the time-lapse video done for the Sol Le Witt exhibit.

Brooks and Jones said most of the dramatic progress will be done in the interior but that it could possible to video those changes and the demolition and rebuilding of the gymnasium.

In other business:

Superintendent James Montepare said he would be bringing a plan to the School Committee on Tuesday for reviewing possible names.

School Building Committee member Ronald Superneau asked to be appointed to the naming committee.

"I have some really strong feelings," he said. "I was on [the committee] when we named Sullivan [School]."

A pre-bid walk-through would be held for qualified contractors on Friday. The general contractor bids are due March 6 with anticipation that the selected firm will have access to the building by the end of March.

The next meetings will be Mondays, Feb. 24 and March 10, at 5 at City Hall.

Tags: Conte School,   LEED,   school building committee,   school project,   

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