Charles Rose Architects

Charles Rose Architects

Somerville, MA


Otto Specht School

The Otto Specht School offers an academic and artistic Waldorf School education to students with special needs. The K-12 school, designed to meet zero net energy standards, is located at the junction of a natural landscape, an organic farm, and a neighboring community’s gardens. The buildings’ forms are attenuated, stretching voluminously over the landscape, as though they were pulled and twisted into being—infusing the environment with kinetic energy. Organized into two wings—a classroom wing sited to the west overlooking farmland and an arts wing to the north—the structures create a variety of spaces, inside and out, for learning and play.

The interrelationship of light and landscape, interior and exterior, are integral to the project’s design. Glass is utilized throughout to create light-filled spaces that open onto the landscape, blurring the boundary between inside and out while heightening the sense of place. Expansive windows frame views, making learning, social, and recreational activities within the structure and across the site visible, fostering community.

A prismatic use of color, from cladding to glass to interior surfaces, unifies the structure. Transparent layers of colored stain ebb and flow across the exterior wood siding and interior wood paneling—evoking the Waldorf School tradition of veil painting. The diffuse quality of the polychromatic hues, in turn, dematerializes the form so it is at once solid and light. Luminous, colored-glass panels also punctuate the façade, creating a dance of color within.

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Status: Unbuilt
Location: Chestnut Ridge, NY, US
Firm Role: Architect