Project DescriptionHarvard H. Ellis Technical High School embarked on a challenge to transform its image and redefine its presence amidst the community, as part of the Connecticut Technical High School System’s multi-year mission to renew all 19 of its schools. Completed in May 2015, the $84 million project increased the school’s size by 68,000 square feet, with a total of 117,300 square feet being renovated or added. The new updated school embraced 21st century technology, and completely transformed its former factory-style layout into a modern and dynamic facility with a streamlined, contemporary image. The composition and form of the school was restructured to allow each element of the school’s diverse program – academic, vocational, athletic, and communal -- to have a unique architectural expression on the street-facing facades.
Notable design features of the updated facility include:
• Streamlined, contemporary vocational shops that support computer-aided technologies.
• A spacious new academic classroom wing.
• A new gymnasium with a generous lobby.
• A clear plan organization with distinctive areas for academics, vocational education, gymnasium and cafeteria.
• A central hub containing a new, glass-clad media center and surrounded by student services – guidance, administration, school nurse.
• Capacity for digital technology infused throughout the building.
• A dramatic canopy that unmistakably highlights the main entrance to the building.
The state-of-the-art exterior design of the building handsomely updated the existing appearance with white ground face concrete masonry, red brick and aluminum-framed curtain walls – capped with a soaring steel canopy at the main entrance. The new facility also includes teaching kitchens for the new culinary arts program, a media center, new science labs and a new enlarged cafeteria. Enrichments included light and airy channel glass for the new media center, porcelain tile and VCT flooring, new paint and acoustic ceilings throughout.
The renovation has had a significant impact on interest in the school. As an example, the new gymnasium has positioned the school favorably in relation to competing schools for athletics, helping to increase the applications for enrollment in the school overall. The Principal of the school, Dr. Mignault says he “loves the indirect [north] light and view [from the gymnasium], as well as the ability to isolate [the space] for after-school and evening activities.” Many requests are received from the community to use this and other spaces, including the Town of Killingly, which currently uses the gymnasium for youth wrestling activities and programs.
In addition to a complete academic program leading to a high school diploma, the school provides vocational education in 11 areas, including culinary arts, hair dressing and cosmetology, manufacturing technology, plumbing and heating, carpentry, electrical, masonry and two automotive technologies. Several programs offer regular low-cost services to the community, while students gain real-life work experience. The new shop for hairdressing and cosmetology provides a professional-level work environment and a true “salon experience” for the customers who visit on a daily basis. Similarly, a new restaurant space for the culinary arts program gives students the opportunity to run a business and interact with customers drawn from the surrounding neighborhood.
The new facility is having an outstanding impact on the community serving as a resource to both students, local area residents and community members. The project was designed to support a population of 792 students in grades 9 through 12, in addition to the faculty and staff.
The project overcame a difficult phasing and construction process where five complex phases of construction were identified to allow the entire school to remain in operation throughout the entire 3-year construction project. The construction was postponed for two years due to the slowdown in the economy starting in 2008. Inevitable changes in the school curriculum and program during the hiatus required the design team to make alterations throughout the project without substantially impacting the overall completed design.