05 March 2008

Hayes Porter School

As I write this post, the CPS levy is passing 51 to 49%. I am thankful that this passed so that our son can continue to have Art and Music teachers. I have had nothing but positive experiences with my child in the Cincinnati Public School system. The thing that matters most, the teachers, have exceeded my expectations on all levels.

However, something is wrong at CPS. I am not knowledgeable about the details enough to say what exactly is wrong, but they cannot seem to build a decent building. As a prime example look at the new Hayes Porter in the West End.

Debacle. That is the only way to describe this 12 million dollar conglomeration of bricks, aluminum glazing systems, vents and downspouts.

There is a commenter on this site who has mentioned this school once or twice. I had seen it under construction, and knew it was pretty ugly, but I had never really paid much attention to it. Saturday we walked a different way than usual to the Museum Center, and we passed this building. It is disgusting.

The drudgery of the the design committee is clearly exemplified in the final product.

The backside, was the first part I saw. It kinda looked like a jail or a warehouse from this approach.

Corner windows and corner vents are an important design feature:

How could anyone look at this during the design process and say, "yeah, thats what we want for our kids, banal boxes with minimal windows". They didn't. No one thought about this project from a student or a neighborhood perspective. Heck, from what I can tell, no one thought about this project at all.

Parking lot entry, south elevation:

Grand front Entry:

Right half of building, front elevation. Notice the historic church next door, and the three downspouts as the primary design feature:

From corner, across the street:

The old building :
Hays-Porter is located on an eight-acre site with very little greenspace, in the center of an urban environment. The property is partially fenced for security. Access onto the site is somewhat restricted due to roads on three sides of the building. Site circulation is somewhat congestion but is controlled by signals. There is no designated space for school buses to load and unload on the site. Most of the site is paved asphalt, and no playground equipment is provided.

The old building being demolished:

The architect's website.

The people responsible.


Radarman said...

Thank you for this. We in City West will be living with this awful decision for the next 50 years. It is clear, since there were plenty of architects in Cincinnati with experience in school design, that the CPS administration selected an out of town firm for political reasons.

I believe this is the firm that designed the new SCPA.

dew said...

Thanks for posting Mike - great pictures of such a horrid eyesore.

I remember witnessing this thing when it was being constructed, thinking to myself, surely there's no human way possible that they won't punch more windows into that building - only to return a few weeks later to find they actually installed fewer windows.

I find it so sad that this one slipped through the cracks - yet you can guarantee we won't let the same thing happen to Rothenburg.

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember at the presentation of the plans to the Board that the planning team (which consisted of school and community members) wanted the enclosed building, largely to further a sense of security.

I read about a school in Los Angeles with glass walls right on the street, so outsiders could look in and see the beehive of activity. The district felt that if people could see children at work they would feel more involvement in the schools.

I've often felt that Cincinnatians who don't have kids in the schools are antagonistic because they see CPS as adults protecting their jobs, not children working to learn. The Enquirer certainly encourages them in that.

But I don't think the idea of a glass school would work very well here (climate differences notwithstanding). Particularly in the West End, many people don't feel safe and where their children are concerned they want to be extra cautious.

I agree that it's an ugly building. But perhaps it's ugly for a reason that the building's users wanted and approved of that doesn't appeal to those simply looking at the building? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

it may be safer and at least it's new, but has nothing to do with the area it is in. I would not be pleased if I lived across the street in one of those neat new condos. That church building did not seem too pleased... ;)

CityKin said...

Just one clarification. When walking this area is seems very safe and clean. I would guess that the crime rate in the City West area is extremely low.

Anonymous said...

I voted against the CPS levy for the new buildings years ago, I'm still paying and will have to pay more now thanks to the new levy passing.......

Anonymous said...

Do you think the people in those nice new condos send their kids to Hays Porter?

Were they involved in the process of designing the school?

Because even if they don't send their kids there or even have kids, they could have been involved very heavily in making sure that the school had things that made it a pleasant place to be and to look at.

I could understand their concern if they were shut out of the process and CPS imposed the design on them. But the community had more chance to get involved and influence the design than in most any other school district I know of.

Is the point that perhaps the district did this on purpose--figuring that people who live there wouldn't notice or care if their school looked like a bunker?

CityKin said...

When this was being designed the City West was under construction and the residents in transition.

Yes, I do think some homeowners in CityWest will send children to school here.

However, I have not experienced this CPS inviting community input into the design of their schools that you speak of. I doubt that happened here, and I know it didn't happen for the school near me.

Kevin LeMaster said...

This school is a criminal act against architecture, IMHO. It appears that it was designed without taking human beings into consideration.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, if you had blanked out the background on those photos and shown them to me, I would have thought that building was an airport maintenance hangar. And an ugly one at that.

I didn't think it was possible for CPS to design and build a school uglier than the thing on stilts in the East End, but they did!

Anonymous said...

Hays-Porter was one of the schools in the first phase. They debated over whether it was better to renovate the old building or build new. From the comments here some residents might have preferred renovating.

I think the district learned a lot about what works and what doesn't. Being first is a two-edged sword. You get what you want (unlike schools in the last phase who have little left to work with) but you also make mistakes.

Moody Nolan isn't a Cincinnati firm but it is located in Columbus and Cleveland and had done a lot of schools. In addition, they are the largest African-American owned architectural firm. With a lot of people from AMOS to the NAACP breathing down CPS' neck about minority participation I think a lot of people would have questioned why they weren't involved.

Now in the later stages they've culled the list of firms down to the reliable ones. I'm not sure Moody Nolan is on the list.

CityKin said...

^Thanks for the comment. I had no idea of the minority-owned firm issue. However, they are co-archtitects on the SCPA which makes me think they are still on the list of approved architects, but maybe they are not taking the lead on design. Still, I would have to fault the administration for not raising many red flags when they saw this design. Frankly I would say the same for the new SCPA, now under construction.

Anonymous said...

SCPA is in the second phase. There are three architectural firms on it but I think Cole + Russell is the lead firm.

I think CPS learned a lot about how to involve the community in this process. The idea of engaging the neighborhood and allowing it to create a community learning center is a good one. But it does mean that neighborhoods that are not that good at organizing or have fewer resources can be left with little more than standard issue for the academic portion of the school.

The building could have had more windows. The state will pay for a 5% window area; the district has upped that to 10% and will pay for the extra 5% out of local funds. Doesn't look like the architect used even 5%, though.

The district has adopted some really very exciting environmentally conscious design parameters. I heard a presentation from the architect in charge of the green initiatives--green roofs, water capture, a lot of cool ideas. Which, unfortunately, come too late for buildings that have already been constructed.

Anonymous said...

I've got to say, the new Pleasant Ridge school seems to be shaping up to be an attractive school. They push the "green" aspect of it, which (personally) I think is just a bunch of PR to make people feel better about themselves, but regardless, the school looks good.

Anonymous said...

^The site is terrible, however. (Almost literally) a mile wide and an inch deep. There is such a steep dropoff behind the school there is no room for playfields or playgrounds. But the community wanted a school there or else and that's what they got.

As far as the green stuff, the school will be the first to be LEED certified and that's an accomplishment. From what I heard all new schools from here on out will be LEED certified Silver and renovations will be LEED certified (no metal).

Pleasant Ridge would go overboard congratulating themselves for crossing the street in a way that no one else has ever thought of before they arrived at this outstanding method of locomation.

catherine said...

Hey, all you anonymous people, can't you at least give yourself some kind of nickname so we can follow a little better?

Anonymous said...

Something else occurred to me about Hays. I'm pretty sure the original plan was for two school buildings at this location, one Hays (after George Hays) and one Porter (after Jennie Porter). They were going to be two separate buildings, arranged in an ell shape, sharing the green space/playfield/playground area behind them. With the decline in enrollment they axed one building and combined the two into Hays-Porter.
Nothing to do with the actual building, just the ideas for what would go on the site.