Oxford High School – September 5, 2007 -was a historic day for the 209-year old Town of Oxford, Connecticut. On that day, 267 students filed into the first and only high school in the Town’s history. In prior years, students heading to high school found themselves separated from many of their peers as they were spread among half a dozen area high schools. But on this day, the Oxford students were united. This former farming community had seen a large increase in the number of affluent residents arriving from Fairfield County. The increased tax base created by this growth allowed the small town to consider the concept of a high school – an idea which was, at one time, fiscally inconceivable.
Oxford High School is a new educational facility for 750 students incorporating a natatorium and core facilities for expansion to 800 students. At the start, Antinozzi Associates was directed by the Oxford High School Building Committee to design a building that “looked like Oxford”. In most New England communities, this would have resulted in a building with shutters, cornices, and a cupola. This design, however, spoke to the concept of a town center by creating a vertical iconic element, similar to a church spire or town hall lantern – surrounded with smaller scaled structures emphasizing the spaces in-between. Based on several aspects of the project discussed in more detail below, Oxford High School has received several notable industry awards in Connecticut.
Site Constraints = Structural Solutions
The rugged topography included 65 acres of densely forested land over shallow bedrock, with an elevation rise of more than 500 feet from the nearest major road. The strict budget of a new high school design still had to fall within the $44 million project budget approved over two years earlier. Therefore, Antinozzi Associates was required to work creatively with the town to find a way to minimize the building footprint. The design team’s solution, in coordination with the structural engineer on the project, The Di Salvo Ericson Group, was a steel roof truss system designed to support the school’s third floor classroom space from above, allowing clear spans below for the auditorium and gymnasium. Reducing the footprint of the building had the added benefit of minimizing site work and related construction costs.
Award: ACEC (American Council of Engineering Companies) of Connecticut; 2008 Merit Award for Engineering Excellence – submitted by and presented to The DiSalvo Ericson Group.
The positive impact that completing a project such as this can have on community, with both financial and construction challenges, cannot be overstated. Previously the children of Oxford went to one of two elementary schools in Town, continuing on to one middle school. Upon reaching high school age, Oxford sent half of its students to private high schools in Trumbull, Westport and Waterbury and the other half to public schools in Monroe and Seymour. Completing the high school provided a new sense of community by allowing continuity of the student class all the way to high school graduation. This benefit became all too obvious in the smiles of the Freshman Class as they entered the facility, chanting in chorus, “We are the Oxford High Class of 2011.”
Award: The Real Estate Exchange; 2008 Community Impact Award – submitted by and presented to O&G Industries, Inc.
As the exterior of the school was designed – with a series of deviated masses and overlapped skin walls to break up the rectilinear mass – Antinozzi Associates carried the same idea into the 575-seat auditorium space. This concept gave both a clear visual relationship to the exterior, as well as simultaneously creating acoustical surfaces of overlapped skin layers of varied angled and shaped walls of acoustic shells, clouds and walls.
Featured: SchoolDesigner.com, Designer Elements; Auditorium Design Edition (August 2008 Issue) – submitted by Antinozzi Associates
Brick and Mortar Use Recognized
The significance design has on a building can be astounding, especially when low restricted budgets and high efficiency standards are driving the project. Many think with such restrictions the only solution is a tedious long rectilinear building, but through the ingenuity of our Director of Design, Seung Park, he has proven this notion inaccurate.
The design concept of Oxford High School was to express the interior spaces out to the exterior through different bricks and corrugated metal panels, as well as by three-dimensionally offsetting masses and skins (walls). The different colors and textures indicate the different function of the wall or volume behind the interior spaces. The roof truss system allows the upper masses and heavy brick walls to be nicely overhung by projected lintels. The massing of the brick veneer is used to accent several portions of the structure. Some highlighted features are: the main entrance, a three-story rotunda using two different brick colors in a running bond (with ceramic tile medallions at the piers); the auditorium, with a wall of buff colored utility brick with double high recessed soldier courses running the entire length of the wall; and the main lobby, the interior two-story space has a curved brick wall showcasing the auditorium entrance.
Award: International Masonry Institute; 2008 New England Golden Trowel Award for Interior Use of Masonry-Tile Category – submitted by Antinozzi Associates
“I was extremely pleased with each member of the [Oxford High School] project team as we worked together to bring the high school to fruition. Each of them was able to balance the best interests of the Town of Oxford when making important decisions.”
– Dr. Judith A. Palmer, Superintendent, Oxford Public Schools