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2021 Rotch Finalist: Trent Fredrickson


Occupying a residential street, the outdoor classroom is composed from a kit of spatial and programmatic parts, producing a differentiated environment with multiple zones of learning.

A Prototype of Provisionality

This proposal begins by borrowing from the aspirations of architect Giancarlo De Carlo1, along with other pedagogues, who seek to engage children’s education with the city and to use architecture not as a means of separating education from the rest of society, but as a means of integrating it with the city. Leveraging the contemporary health-based mandate to shift classrooms to the outdoors, this proposal reprograms portions of residential streets for educational purposes, in order to foster curricular sensibilities that get students out and about to learn from natural and cultural assets of the city: nearby parks, art and science institutions, and civic demonstrations.

The outdoor classroom prototype is 25’ wide, fitting within a smaller-scale street typical to Boston, and aggregates linearly. The classrooms would be installed temporarily in 3-4 month periods, allowing for students to change learning sites over time for a dynamic and de-routenized education, while ensuring that any particular street is not disrupted for too long by the installation of the outdoor classrooms. As an open classroom, the spaces are imagined as being an asset to communities during the evenings and weekends.


The outdoor classroom prototype understands provisionality as a productive pedagogical and architectural condition, utilizing a kit of spatial and programmatic parts configured into varied layouts. In doing so, a differentiated environment with multiple zones of learning is produced, as opposed to the singular, generic classroom of traditional schools. The kit of parts comprises elements common to the learning environment: cubby wall, drinking fountain, pin-up walls, bathroom (portable)/storage module, and a rubber-floor play area, as well as elements that are endemic to climate control: solar chimney, electric radiant-heat tile mats. Upon this landscape of spatial elements, mobile chairs, desks, and white boards move freely to accommodate flexible use, while fitting into storage closets after hours.

The classroom is supported by a repetitive and modular wood-frame structure, typical to the American construction industry and visually familiar to students and teachers. Wood provides a warm atmosphere and the exposed framing is intended to read as earnest and in a state of becoming, fitting with the nature of the time. The structural frame utilizes bolted connections for ease of assembly and secondary Unistrut framing attached to the rafters allows for the addition of lighting, power drops, and electric heat lamps during the winter.

1De Carlo, G. (1969). Why/how to build school buildings. Harvard Educational Review, 39 (4), 12-35. doi:10.17763/haer.39.4.r1163153200753u4


The site is a large urban room organized as six distinct, yet open, zones that activate social, ecological, and technical exchanges.

A Room for Exchange

One of the greatest virtues of the Internet is its ability to connect things that are spatially and temporally disparate, such as a Zoom call, online commerce, and even a banal Google search, which brings together a wide array of media formats loosely related to a given keyword. This proposal for a data center and renewal of Boston’s Dry Dock No. 4 seeks to emulate this quality at the urban scale by bringing together vastly different environments to produce an amplified condition of public exchanges.

The data servers are organized as an elevated ring-like building surrounding the perimeter of the site, creating a single large urban room within which vast amounts of programmatic and material differentiation are contained. The site is then organized as six distinct, yet interconnected, zones identified as socially-oriented (gather, swim, play) or identified as ecological habitats (salt marsh-dry, salt marsh-wet, and coastal forest). The zones are arranged in alignment with the tripartite order of the existing dock structure, with the exhibition building bisecting the site to distinguish the socially and ecologically based zones. The largely open ground plane is further organized by a scattered arrangement of bar-shaped objects containing technical and social services, while also supporting the truss-structured data center above. The result is a condition of amplified urban exchanges, merging the technical, ecological, and social, existing as a platform with an ability to adapt and re-program over time as the city changes. Behind the scenes, water is pulled from the harbor to cool the data center, which then produces heat that is utilized in warming the swimming pools.


The largely open ground plane is organized by a scattered arrangement of bar-shaped objects containing technical and social programs, while also supporting the truss-structured data center above.


The data center’s roof is occupiable as a pedestrian path with expansive views of the harbor.