playscape at panorama middle school - a chf MSLOE grant recipient

panorama middle school, located in southeast colorado springs, is the second of two schools to be selected and awarded funding for the Colorado Health Foundation’s (CHF) MSOLE grant. we also met panorama in mid 2015, and have been excitedly getting to know their administrative team since then. as panorama is located in colorado springs, the school population and campus are much larger than our other MSOLE grant school las animas – and thus provides it own set of obstacles and opportunities.  we have loved every minute of working along side the school’s principal and faculty, as well as community members, to better understand the demographics, site constraints, and wish list of main program elements. we just wrapped up our design development package last week and expect to finish construction drawings in the next few months. 

inspired by the school's name along with the sweeping vistas of the dramatic front range geology, the playscape design introduces a new topography creating places for interactive play, learning, reflection and informal social gatherings. it includes traditional hard court games, seating areas, a shaded outdoor classroom, looping paths for walking, and structures for climbing and team challenges.  

pivotal to the design is the social ridge, formed by a series of mounds with vertical sandstones. the stones are meant to reflect the hogback formations found in places such as the garden of the gods and along the front range.  they create an axis that ties the playscape together from the entry monument near the drop-off area to the largest mound at the far end. a centrally located outdoor classroom offers a multi-generational spot where teachers and parents can supervise students or hold class under the shade canopy.  the outdoor classroom is carved into the largest mound and offers terraced seating.  this area can also be used as a place for community social gatherings, picnics and weekend recreation.  

new topographies of play are introduced where the existing asphalt drive and parking lot become new play areas while still maintaining service and emergency vehicle access.  a large play pit is cut into the asphalt and becomes a central play feature.  games such as four square are painted on the surface along with topographic lines to redefine the parking lot as a play space. 

a large multi-purpose turf oval is located in the flat area north of the school.  this versatile oval is surrounded by looping path in which people can measure the distance they walk by counting the rest stations that are marked by boulders. the garden zone is located north of the building and is planned to support local gardening groups as well as the school’s STEM classes.  while this part of the design is planned for a future phase, it is included as an important part of the playscape that can offer a new type of experience.  a tactile and experiential garden can provide a place of calm, color and aromatic pleasures.  

check back soon for continued project updates as we progress towards construction in the spring!

Carlin Bartlett