A Remarkable Team Effort Revitalizes a 100-year-old School while Facing Numerous Challenges

3rd Place, Whole Building

Referred to by generations of Hartford, Conn., residents as “The Castle on the Hill,” the Collegiate Gothic building designed by Boston Architect Frank Irving Cooper was opened in 1923 as Weaver High School. By 2015, district budget pressures and low enrollment had placed the school firmly
on the chopping block. Frustrated families and energized stakeholders from Hartford’s North End rallied to save the school and its significant building. Their efforts were instrumental in Hartford City Council designating the structure as historic and in securing approval by the city of Hartford and the state of Connecticut to fund renovations to an “as-new” condition. The school would be converted to accommodate two programs and would be renamed the Martin Luther King Jr. Campus.

In late 2017, early 2018, the race was on to analyze and document the building’s condition and undertake full design and construction for 140,000 square feet of renovations and 34,000 square feet of expansion. Many project challenges centered around the renovation of a 100-year-old building with significant architectural features and the reversal of sometimes brutal and invasive 1970s alterations that were made in the name of modernization and energy efficiency. Compounding challenges were a highly accelerated schedule; uncertainty and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic; requirements to bring the building up to current codes and standards; and, ultimately, the need to transform a 100-year-old facility into an adaptable, flexible and highly functional 21st-century educational environment.

The gymnasium and auditorium were major focuses of the project. The team removed exterior-grade metal panels blocking off the mezzanine level of the gymnasium and replaced a series of south-facing windows that brought natural light into the space for the first time in 50 years. The original building included windows with unique masonry and millwork details, as well as 30-plus unique stained-glass windows, which the team took great care to remove and conserve. Four tall north-facing windows in the auditorium were exposed and replaced while acoustical clouds that obstructed the mezzanine were removed and seating was replaced. The team cleaned and repaired plaster and paint on existing capitals in the auditorium. Meticulous paint and color-matching occurred where new paint was required.

Furthermore, contractors remediated hazardous materials and removed ventilation ducts running through significant components of the auditorium’s decorative plasterwork ceiling. With large areas of the ceiling damaged, contractors stabilized surfaces and replicated missing or damaged materials. The school’s terrazzo floors were cleaned and resealed with areas of extensive damage repaired. Exterior masonry also was comprehensively repaired and, where replacement was required, contractors matched the existing masonry to create a seamless appearance.

“This project has it all: masonry restoration, stained-glass detailing, envelope repairs, MEP coordination, undoing past mistakes, K-12 budget and politics, creative financing and schedule constraints. Restoration of the gym and auditorium are breathtaking. The project team likely deserves as much credit for the process as for the final result.”

Ross Welch, AIA, NOMA, LEED Green Associate, associate, Trivers, Metamorphosis Awards Judge

Retrofit Team

METAMORPHOSIS AWARD WINNER and PLANNING, ARCHITECTURE AND INTERIOR DESIGN: JCJ Architecture

MEP/FP ENGINEER: Consulting Engineering Services

STRUCTURAL ENGINEER: Macchi Engineers LLC

ACOUSTICS, A/V, TECHNOLOGY: Jaffe Holden

HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Building Conservation Associates

THEATER PLANNING AND DESIGN: Fisher Dachs Associates

COMMISSIONING: Sustainable Engineering Solutions

Materials

MODIFIED BITUMEN ROOF MEMBRANE: Tremco

ROOF INSULATION: Holcim Building Envelope

METAL WALL PANELS: Reynobond from Arconic and East Coast Metal Systems

WINDOWS: Quaker Commercial Windows & Doors

CURTAINWALLS: Wausau Window and Wall Systems

GLAZING: Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope

ELEVATORS: Otis

RESILIENT AND MULTIPURPOSE FLOORING: Tarkett

CARPET TILE: Mohawk Industries and Shaw Contract

ACOUSTICAL CEILING SYSTEMS: USG

DECORATIVE ACOUSTIC CEILING SYSTEMS: Armstrong Ceiling & Wall Solutions

LIGHTING: Aron Lighting, Alphabet Lighting, NeoRay, Portfolio and Modern Forms

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