Architecture Firm: Murray Legge Architecture
Owner: Little Tiger Chinese Immersion School
Location: Austin, Texas
Category: up to $2.5 million in construction cost
Austin’s Little Tiger is a Chinese language immersion school serving children in pre-K, kindergarten, and early elementary school in one of the city’s residential neighborhoods. The school had been operating at capacity in a converted bungalow and adjacent church, and this project, taking advantage of Austin’s development code for compatible uses, adds a new one-room classroom to flesh out a small-scale campus.
A new master plan for the school drove the project, calling for a new building, fencing, and landscaping to create a more cohesive campus. The new building is tucked behind the 1940s bungalow at the residential site’s rear. All school activities take place across the three buildings, so the team needed to create a sense of community and campus identity with the placement of the 735-square-foot structure.
"The project is thoughtfully inserted into a residential neighborhood through the articulation of a familiar iconic form while skillfully modulating building elements—in particular the exterior envelope—to provide spaces of occupation of varying scales." - Jury Comment
The new building finds inspiration in the classic American one-room schoolhouse and its iconic gable form, rectangular footprint, and single classroom space. Its size was tailored to the students, who are under four feet tall. The gable’s shape results in low eaves that assist in reducing the building’s scale, and the windows throughout the building are all child-height. Inside, a long and low bay window with a built-in bench serves as a reading nook.
“The project is thoughtfully inserted into a residential neighborhood through the articulation of a familiar iconic form while skillfully modulating building elements—in particular the exterior envelope—to provide spaces of occupation of varying scales,” said the jury.
A palette of white-painted cement board and paint-grip metal allows the exterior to fit into the neighborhood context and campus aesthetic easily. The classroom is a vaulted space accommodating between 12 and 15 students. There, abundant daylight streams in through a continuous skylight along the roof’s peak, tempering the Texas sun through a series of vertical light baffles. At different moments throughout the year, small patches of sunlight dapple the floor, while the light is diffuse and indirect at others.
The team worked closely with the owners, one of whom is an artist and formerly provided commercial photography for architects. Together, they created a building that is surprising in form while still reflecting the language of the surrounding residential buildings.