Following the success of SLAM’s partnership with Hartford Public Schools on a district-wide master plan, SLAM, in collaboration with Amenta Emma Architects, was tasked with the first implementation of Hartford’s District Model for Excellence: transform the existing 40-year-old, 370,000 SF Weaver High School into a theme-driven community school for grades 9-12. The reimagined facility brought three schools together under one roof and offers students three academic pathways: The R. J. Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, National Academy Foundation Insurance & Finance Academy (finance, business & insurance industries) and the Journalism and Media Academy (Broadcast Production and media-focused fields).
Weaver High School was designed in the 1960’s, when education researchers thought that enclosed environments with limited views would eliminate distractions and help students remain focused on learning. New studies have shown that the opposite is true, and that students perform better on tests if classrooms have views of green landscapes.
Working with an existing building with a sinking first-floor slab, hazardous materials, and low floor-to-ceiling heights was a challenge. While public spaces, such as breakout zones and stairwells did have light, the long façade was virtually windowless. Architects removed approximately 100,000 SF from the structure that included the 5th floor, several structural bays (one bay deep along the entire south façade), plus additional full height of the building. Stairwells in the first bay were removed to create an entry canopy.
Sustainability measures such as increased natural light within the building and the use of cost-effective, energy-efficient materials and systems meets Connecticut High Performance Building Standards (LEED Gold equivalent). The school opened its doors to students in the Fall of 2019. Major renovations to the Doc Hurley Fieldhouse were completed later in 2020.
SLAM and Amenta Emma’s strategic design created space for specialized areas, such as a broadcast booth for the school radio station, a black box theater, a dance studio, a costume-making classroom, medical clinic, and dentist facility.