St. Anthony's Serves as a Model for Future Diocese Schools
A new school complex, designed with three striking Best Block architectural concrete masonry units, will serve as a model for future schools built by The Catholic Diocese of Victoria. Priya Natarajan of JMB2 Architecture Cooperative notes that Bishop Brendan J. Cahill calls the new addition at St. Anthony Catholic School "a yard stick for any school facility that follows."
The school located in Columbus, Texas needed more space, but envisioned a truly 21st century educational environment to provide for the needs of the school’s growing population. The expansion would connect with one of the older, modern buildings at the school, which was founded in 1956.
The process of designing the two story structure mirrored the Four Cs the facility is meant to encourage: critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity. JMB2 Architecture Cooperative worked closely with leaders of the school and parish.
“We went room by room, uncovering opportunities for designing a learning facility tailored to the teachers’ and students’ individual needs while relating back to the community, ” says Natarajan.
The 15,000 square foot interior includes pods of classrooms surrounding “breakout spaces” to facilitate group study or small-group instruction. The expansion also includes facilities for science and art.
Tying It Together
A rounded doorway in a “Hobbit Wall” leads from a Reading Grove with benches and carefully preserved live oak trees to the library/Learning Commons. 7th and 8th grade classrooms are upstairs near the science and computer labs and science balcony. The new facilities free up space in the old main building to be used for administrative offices and community gatherings.
Matt Brown of JMB2 Architecture Cooperative in Sugar Land wanted the project to harmonize with the existing campus and small, traditional, oak-tree lined community. He wanted the expansion to, “lend a sense of traditional style but be transitional in style to link the two buildings together.”
The Diocese of Victoria needed the building to be safe, of course. Reducing up-front construction costs as well as maintenance and energy costs into the future were also important considerations. For all of these reasons, concrete masonry units from Houston’s Best Block were the right fit for the expansion.
City Masonry selected three finishes of water-repelling CMUs for this project. For a finished appearance they chose CMUs from the Ground Face CMUs and even smoother Polished Series.
Split Face CMUs are made by molding two units together, curing them for a set amount of time, then splitting them apart, leaving unique textured faces with the appearance of rough hewn stone. Three contrasting shades of Split Face units were used in St. Anthony’s construction: Terra Cotta and the lighter Palamino and White Limestone.
For the whimsical “Hobbit Wall” facing the Reading Grove and Prayer Garden, builders selected a brick veneer.
The school’s neighbor, Drymalla Construction managed the site. Working together, Drymalla, City Masonry, and Best Block easily resolved challenges that arose in the field.