HILLTOP MONTESSORI GYMNASIUM ADDITION

Hilltop Montessori School is located in the wooded community of Mt. Laurel, and focuses on creativity, curiosity, and independent learning with the teacher as a guide. As such, connectivity to the outdoors, tactility of materials, large size of classrooms, and diversity of learning environments were paramount to the architectural design of the school campus, as well as to this new multipurpose facility.

The building is intentionally sited to preserve as many of the existing large trees as possible and give the students a feeling of being surrounded by the Mt. Laurel forest. Large windows are provided in every room for daylighting and for views, and natural stone from the community was included as an exterior material.

The building massing is a simple articulation: a barn-like masonry and exposed timber structure encloses a basketball gymnasium while a flat-roof bar contains a teaching kitchen, restrooms, classrooms, and lobby. A two-story scheme of the same design was also explored as an option for additional programmatic space. The interior is a restrained palette of architectural CMU, tinted red to draw energy from the exposed timber rafters and deck, and sealed concrete floors.

The kitchen is a jewel of the new building: larger than necessary, it is designed to accommodate classes of children in a teaching program emphasizing farm-to-table education. Modern appliances, fit for any commercial kitchen, also allow the facility to serve as a community center for Mt. Laurel as well, and the basketball court even features the town seal at half-court. The new building is conceived, designed, and built to serve not only the school of Hilltop, but also to give back to the town of Mt. Laurel as a whole.