As a solution to the challenges faced because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Little Tiger Chinese Immersion School chose to move a large portion of its classes outdoors. Over the summer the school director reached out to our office to design an outdoor classroom that could be built quickly and affordably before the start of the new Fall 2020 school year. Their primary concern was to shelter the children from the intense Texas sun. The temporary structure cost less than $3000 USD and took about a week to build. It is composed primarily of wood 2×4’s which are secured to the ground with threaded pile anchors that can be easily removed when the structure is taken down, leaving no trace that it was there.
We choose to use stick framing for several reasons, primarily that it is fast, flexible, and affordable. The A-frame walls are very stable and include built-in linear benches for the kids to sit on. We are also fans of the granular and intricate structural expression of stick frame construction and look for opportunities to explore innovative applications of this common building system. Here the design figure and strength comes from the repetition of members.
The structure is further expressed through the use of diagonal members which brace the walls laterally while giving the structure a playful, graphic quality. Classes are held in the morning until midday to take advantage of the cooler morning temperatures. Since the sun is low in the morning, the east-facing wall provides as much shade as the roof does.
The A-frame wall on the east side acts as an armature for the vertical shade cloth. Spanning between the A-frame walls is an off-the-shelf prefabricated retractable shade cloth roof. The material is reflective solar cloth to cut down the radiant heat from the sun. The classroom is very popular with the children who use it as a play structure when the classroom is not in use. Here, climbing the walls is encouraged.