VLK Architects Celebrate the New Condit Elementary at Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Bellaire, Texas ' On December 15th, VLK Architects attended the Ribbon Cutting ceremony for Houston ISD's Condit Elementary School. The original Al J. Condit Elementary School was built in 1914. This year, its reconstructed facility was completed and opened to students in August. The Ribbon Cutting ceremony highlighted its treasured space within the community of Bellaire.

Condit has served its community as a neighborhood school for over 100 years and despite its new building, it remains to be a treasured, sacred to the community of Bellaire, a tight-knit suburb of Houston, Texas. Bellaire, like many other communities, is steeply invested in the education of their children and their community as a whole. When the time came for the Houston Independent School District (HISD) to construct a replacement facility for Condit, it was evident that the community was going to play a huge part in helping with the design.

In addition to keeping up with modern educational practices, the design had to not only upgrade, but also replace the existing building that had become a fixture in Bellaire and helped to define its culture. At the Ribbon Cutting ceremony, Principal Dan Greenberg talked about the pieces of the facility that were incorporated from the original Condit, and mentioned the one of a kind design features that are unique to this new space.

'It was really important for us to maintain some historic aspects of our building. Often times, that means that there are items that we want to make sure come with us,' said Condit Principal, Dan Greenberg. 'Our original building was from 1928, and what we were able to bring were the keystone, recreate the archway, and have the original Al J. Condit Elementary School sign along with some of the brickwork that is actually inlaid right when you walk in. So the first thing you see when you walk into the new building is a tip-of-the-hat to the old building. We are really proud of that because there is a tradition we want to continue and that starts with acknowledging what a rich history we have.'

Another theme the design team was inspired by was the shape of a ribbon. To show this, a ribbon of classrooms is threaded through the open concept library called the 'learning commons.' The open Learning Commons freely allows students to roam the stacks of books and technology tools, as they walk through the school. With longstanding traditions and familial ties, VLK hoped to create an atmosphere that connected the best pieces of Condit together. The history, students, families, Bellaire community, and Houston ISD are all represented in the new building.

'I believe architecture is graded by the emotion it strikes in its users,' said Richard Hunt, VLK Project Designer. 'With Condit, one of my primary intents was to key in on how the children would feel as they used the space. My hope is that they feel it is playful, colorful, and the building evokes a desire within them to go to school. The open space, vibrant paint colors, and curving walls are all intended to create a playhouse, fun environment for the students, so they can feel at ease and be excited to learn.'

For Principal Greenberg, felt the most exciting part was seeing his students react to their new, vibrant school.

'For me, it wasn't until I was able to live the experience through the eyes of the most important people on our campus, the kids, that I was able to step back and really see what we have done,' said Greenberg.

The two-story replacement school features open collaborative spaces and flexible furniture that can be configured in a variety of different ways. The new Condit Elementary still remains a special part of the Bellaire community, not only because of its history, but also because of its ability to serve its students in a space that inspires next generation learning.

'We are part of a district that was ready to design and build forward-thinking learning spaces,' said Greenberg. 'We worked with a fantastic architecture firm that was ready to bring in elements of design that may not always be seen in an elementary school, and we had a Project Advisory Team that was up for the challenge of creating a school that would serve our learners now and into the future. Our building really is a gift to our community and I am grateful to have been a part of the process.'