LocationWashington, DC, United States
PrincipalTodd Ray, FAIA
Text description provided by the architects. Mundo Verde is a bilingual, sustainability-focused public charter school located in the District of Columbia. The school’s curriculum is based in expeditionary learning, where students learn through the active exploration of the world around them. Awarded a shuttered 1920s-era school building and site by the District in 2013, Mundo Verde had a direct question for the design team: “How can this redevelopment and addition project teach our students to be global stewards?”
Mundo Verde is two buildings: the renewed and refined historic school and a new Pre-K annex. The surrounding landscape is integral to the buildings, blending the natural systems of the city with learning space.
Pre-K Annex: The massing of the annex is derived from the existing building and modulated in response to solar exposure and the pattern of the surrounding city fabric. It sits at the northeast corner of the site, reinforcing the site’s urban edge while protecting a courtyard for Pre-K student play. The exterior facade is designed to be deferential to the historic school, yet textured at a scale accessible to the Mundo Verde students. A third floor learning terrace, large window openings, and building orientation provide for light-filled classrooms which frame the natural landscape of the interior play court. Bold colors inspired by Latin American culture add additional vibrancy to the interior.
Site: The new Mundo Verde campus is a framework for learning expeditions about environmental sustainability. The paths of these expeditions are quilted together to form the campus design. Students grow and harvest food for their lunches in gardens onsite, learning healthy and seasonable eating habits. Indigenous plantings support migratory insect and bird populations. An underground cistern and constructed streambed illustrate the importance of water conservation.
Historic School Renovation: The institutional plan of the existing building is reimagined as an innovative blend of flexible student and administration spaces. Breakout nooks and cubbies are carved from the generous corridors, abandoned ventilation chases, and existing wall thicknesses. New windows provide natural light to the building core. As in the Annex, high ceilings and grand window expanses are supported by highly coordinated building system integration.
The expeditionary learning curriculum empowers MV students to be leaders in their own learning expeditions. The new Mundo Verde buildings and landscapes are designed to be dynamic partners in the growth of children into life-long learners and stewards of the environment.