Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Maritime Center Historic Rehabilitation by Hamilton + Aitken Architects
May 22nd, 2014 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Hamilton + Aitken Architects
The Maritime Center was one of two childcare centers built specifically to accommodate mothers working in the nearby Richmond shipyards during World War II. Henry J. Kaiser acquired funding from the Maritime Commission under the Lanham Act to build these centers for his workers (the famous Rosie the Riveters), making the Maritime Center one of the first federally-funded childcare centers in the United States. Built as a temporary structure to fulfill a wartime need, the center remained in continuous operation for over 50 years.
By 2004, the building had deteriorated to the point of possible collapse and was closed. Due to wartime shortages of materials when it was built in 1943, Maritime’s wood building lacked a concrete foundation and had settled unevenly over time, making it structurally unsound. It suffered from water damage, mold, asbestos and lead-based materials, and ADA noncompliance. Major rehabilitation was required to save one of the last remaining links to a vital part of the Home Front story.
A rehabilitated, LEED Gold Maritime Center re-opened in 2011 as a joint-use facility: a K-1 charter school, a community-focused nonprofit headquarters, and National Park Service site. Included in the National Register of Historic Places, Maritime’s rehabilitation included preservation of the existing historic fabric of the building. The building’s late Streamline Moderne-style elements such as the projecting entry façade, horizontal redwood lap siding, and portholes along the slide tower had been covered with stucco or attachments over the years. The rehabilitation restored these elements to reveal original designs and materials. The design team paid particular attention to the preserved NPS classroom; the restoration and matching of the wallboard with V groove joints throughout; and the preservation of wood-framed windows and original skylights. Original wooden sleeping partitions were repurposed to serve as cubicle walls for the office space upstairs. The design team’s efforts were recently recognized with an AIA San Francisco Honor Award for Historic Preservation.
Maritime’s current educational uses closely match the building’s original purpose: progressive early childhood education. Maritime was designed with the advice of Dr. Catherine Landreth, a child development expert at UC Berkeley. Landreth’s ideas about how the built environment could enhance child development are evident throughout the building: south-facing windows for increased natural light; large glass doors and patios for free access to outdoor play; child-sized components; an infirmary for onsite healthcare; and built-in storage to accommodate an art-centered curriculum. The design team preserved and restored these elements where possible: the child-sized coat area and built-in cubbies in the classrooms, child-sized water fountains, and the double-bannistered stairs; operable glazed doors were restored at the partially enclosed classroom exterior walls; and glazed roofing was placed over the classroom patios.
Richmond College Prep’s mandate is to radically improve educational success for the low-income, minority children of the surrounding neighborhood. The school portion of the building on the first floor was renovated for modern educational use and enhanced with child-focused designs that point to the building’s unique history. Signage throughout the school depicts sailors and boats, and a giant rose compass rings an existing tree outside. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the building was its original wooden exit slides from the second story – one at the west façade and one in the south-facing tower. The tower exit chute was restored and is visible from the play yard and from the second floor office via porthole windows, while the missing exit slide was replaced with a new exit stair to match the slide’s profile.
A preserved classroom serves as one of the sites of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, and is regularly open for public tours, talks, and workshops. The preserved classroom includes a restored child-sized restroom with original fixtures and magnesite floor. Maritime’s NPS interpretive center is furnished with child-sized tables and chairs, art easels, wooden toys and other artifacts from the WWII Richmond childcare centers as well as examples of some of the 5000 pieces of original childrens’ artwork collected by Maritime teacher Monica Haley. The Center features stories of children who attended Maritime as well as those of its Rosie the Riveter mothers. It is one of two National Parks with functioning schools, the other being Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. The National Park, established in 2002 and still under development, includes the nearby Rosie the Riveter Memorial, the SS Red Oak Victory Ship, the Ford Assembly Plant, and a new Visitor Education Center.
Maritime’s rehabilitation included the adaptive reuse of the upstairs into offices for the Richmond Community Foundation (RCF) which provides grants to improve the quality of life of Richmond residents. The Maritime Center Rehabilitation is part of RCF’s Nystrom Urban ReVitalization Effort (NURVE) that includes the modernization of neighboring Nystrom Elementary School, the renovation of the adjacent Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Park and Recreation Center, and large-scale residential development.
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