Groundbreaking: Waldorf School of Pittsburgh

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson team with Waldorf School of Pittsburgh faculty and students. Photograph copyright Randi Voss Photography.

The Waldorf School of Pittsburgh (WSP) recently celebrated the groundbreaking of their much anticipated Eighth Grade Classroom. The ceremony was hosted by Kirsten Christopherson Clark, Head of School, and attended by students, faculty, parents, and the project team. The building will be the first of its kind, and also the first school in the nation to pursue the Core Green Building Certification, a program through the International Living Future Institute.

The Eighth Grade Classroom project developed from a need to meet the Waldorf School’s expanding student enrollment. The Classroom is a 1,000 SF stand-alone structure, designed to house the 25-person eighth grade class.

During the two-year visioning process for the project, the School explored the possibility of constructing a SEED Classroom, a modular structure designed to meet the requirements of Living Building Challenge. Struggling to achieve their specific needs, and their unique sense of aesthetics and beauty, they engaged Bohlin Cywinski Jackson to pursue a new custom design solution. “Today the final design and function of the classroom reflects our values as a school,” said Christopherson Clark.

Based on the Waldorf principles, the educational development of eighth grade students is focused on strengthening independence and thinking as they explore the outside world. Therefore, the building is intentionally situated away from the main schoolhouse. The massing of the classroom is simple yet thoughtful, with the service bar lining the south edge and the teaching space opening to the north. A gently arced wall delineates the perimeter of the interior teaching space, yet physiologically connects the students to the outdoors. Playing off the shape of the exterior pathway, this wall forms a gesture of embrace around the beloved outdoor green space, which doubles as an amphitheater during large school events.

During the groundbreaking, students offered wishes for the Classroom to the school community and the project team.

Fourth Grade students
“Our wish is that the 8th grade classroom is one that is safe, warm, and inviting, that is enjoyed by all who enter, and that provides strength, confidence, and courage to 8th graders as they move beyond the WSP community.”

Sixth Grade students
“We wish that this space be welcoming and healthy, and that it is a positive place to learn where all can feel comfortable and challenged. May it be a place where fun memories are created, and where the work of those who came before us is appreciated.”

Eighth Grade students
“We hope that this classroom gives the students the ability to be as fantastic and as brilliant as the classroom itself, and we hope that they can carry that brilliance into the world around them.”

With over 100 donors who helped raise the funds for the classroom, the Eighth Grade Classroom project is truly a community effort.

The project is scheduled to be completed December 2019.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson project team:
Kent Suhrbier, AIA, LEED AP

Patricia Culley, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP
Project Manager

Eric Leathers, Mason Limke

Designing buildings that inspire connection and wonder in every person who experiences them.

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