The Riverdale Country School is currently building a new home for its third, fourth and fifth graders. Designed by Architecture Research Office (ARO), the completed halls and classrooms (and floors) will feature graphic interventions designed by Open, developed specifically to prompt learning and inspire curiosity among its youngest audience yet. While construction happens over the next school year, though, the students needed a place to learn—and call their own.
ARO created the Learning Complex, a cluster of standard rental trailers across the street from the site. Open used this as an opportunity to have the students (through ballots) directly pick the colors, icons and patterns for their classrooms. The results are unique identities for nine individual classes and corresponding vinyl super-graphics that help make the temporary environment as memorable (and fun) as possible.
There are 13 40- by 10-ft. trailers in total—nine classrooms, two restrooms, a “make” workshop space and a “look” gallery space. Only one side of each of these trailers was wrapped in vinyl due to budget. To create the best experience possible, the Open design team strategically chose whether the graphics covered the trailers’ short or long sides, depending on the location and proximity to other graphics.
Dominic A.A. Randolph, head of the school, summarized the success and ethos of the project. “There was an immediate sense of this place being theirs. And yet, there were also plenty of blank spaces for the students and teachers to make the space their own. We think it is an interesting model and inspiration for other learning spaces.”
"Simple, bold, democratic and playful. This project brings a much-needed burst of energy and fun to the dreary palette of temporary classrooms. Well done."
"Whimsical, fun and visually arresting, the super-graphic wrapping of the (typically boring) temporary school buildings creates an environment that engages students, establishes landmarks and creates an upbeat, positive experience for the school. The coordinating flags and wayfinding signposts add to the clarity of navigating the space. This is an example of bold, vibrant graphic design, implemented economically, for high impact."
Scott Stowell (creative director), Cat (Kirk) Kucharek, Tomás de Carcer (designer), Jason Jude Chan (producer)
Architecture Research Office (architect), The Rockwell Group (design consultant)
Color X (vinyl wraps, super graphics, welcome banner), Dale Travis Associates (wayfinding signs, room IDs, flagpoles), New England Flag and Banner (flags)