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Canopy protects students in school bus boarding area

Exteriors, Features | January 1, 2008 | By:

A San Antonio elementary school improves the educational experience by adding a new canopy.

For health and safety reasons, the independent San Antonio, Texas, school district needed to provide sun and rain protection for the children waiting to board school buses at Sky Harbor Elementary. Looking for all the world like a row of giant folded paper airplanes, this new canopy not only provides protection it lends a bit of whimsy to the entry promenade, and one would like to think that children begin their school day with a more joyful demeanor after passing under the canopy.

Designed by G H Cox, of The Chism Co., after a suggestion by the school’s architects Pflueger Associates of San Antonio, the Sky Harbor canopy is a series of plane geometric prisms meant to imply the sails of sailboats in allusion to the school’s marine-themed name. “The entry was the brainchild of two young architecture interns working at Pfleuger Associates,” say Cox. “They came up with the idea of sails. I helped them figure out how to construct it.”

What may look simple in execution is actually a bit of subtle shape manipulation. Each “sail” form is in fact irregular with one side of the prism taller than the other, creating a steeper angle at the back. Fabric is attached to the pipe framing in three panels per sail — front, back and end — using a staple-in method made popular by Steel Stitch. Cox drew up the forms in CorelDRAW in scale working back and forth between three-dimensional forms and plan to fit the superstructure onto the existing steel columns the architects had already designed and had in place. Pflueger’s designs for the school were part of a recent complete renovation of a dark, 1980s-era elementary school that was a monolithic concrete pile rammed into a hillside with few windows and little natural light. Now inside and outside are significantly lighter, if even metaphorically.

“The project was fun to work on,” says Cox, “and the client is very satisfied.” —BNW

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