Frank Architects receives Design Excellence Award for new campus
April 7, 2016
The architects which designed the new VMT campus have received an award for their design.
Frank Architects received the Design Excellence Award from the Lower Rio Grande Valley American Institute of Architects Chapter Design Awards Program.
Frank Rotnofsky, a principal at Frank Architects, explained the vision he had in designing the campus.
“The Vidal M. Trevino (VMT) School of Communications and Fine Arts was a very important project for Laredo ISD that would transform and on a large scale a well-known neighborhood in Laredo, the Heights as well as provide its students with a state of the art learning facility,” he wrote in an email to The Magnet Tribune. “As a local firm, we understood how important the VMT was to the community and how its very creation involved the then innovative notion of re-urbanization by the administration. The context of its original location, as a re-master planned collection of historic buildings adaptively reused in a very important Laredo neighborhood, and expansion plans was as much a part of the architectural program as any required function.”
He wrote about the idea that the building is a major attraction in the Heights neighborhood.
“The project concept had to do more than be a unifying idea for a building, it needed to be a rallying vision for the users and graduates of an arts magnet school who had come to treasure the value of the school’s urban context but also understood the evolution it had to undergo. Our firm presented the concept of the VMT: the ‘Beacon of the Heights,’ he wrote. “The image and its arching meaning captured the imagination and spirit of what the new school was to become as the next generation LISD’s arts magnet school at the north door of the Heights Neighborhood. Each meeting that followed, from ground breaking to ribbon cutting, the ‘Beacon of the Heights’ was the one constant refrain and thread.”
Rotnofsky said teachers were important in helping to create the school’s design.
“Teacher and staff input was extremely important to the design process and ultimately the success of the building design. We had numerous meetings with LISD administration, Board of Trustees, the VMT faculty, and an appointed committee made of fine and performing arts leaders of our city,” he said.
Rotnofsky explained his feelings towards the completed campus and its design.
“The most satisfying part of the process is when the construction is complete and the campus is handed over to the district and the VMT teachers, staff and students move in and start using the facility,” Rotnofsky said.
He explained what the award means to him and the company.
“It’s very gratifying to receive a design award from our peers (American Institute of Architects LRG Chapter). I think the collaborative effort of everyone mentioned above made this project a success, which ultimately led to this design award,” he wrote.
A groundbreaking ceremony took place April 29, 2013, at the Nixon High campus. The school cost about $24 million, and students and staff moved into the new school last August. The original campus opened in August 1993 in remodeled, district-owned buildings.
Planning started in 2010
VMT Director Dr. Martha Villarreal said in an e-mail that planning for the new campus began several years ago.
“Planning for our new campus began in the spring of 2010. I remember the excitement when we were told that the architects would start meeting with all the departments that semester,” Villarreal said.
She explained the vision for the new campus.
“Every department had an idea of what our campus should look and feel like. The consensus for our vision of our new school was that it would be a State-of the Art facility that would provide the most sophisticated equipment and latest technology that would allow our students to explore their creative and artistic talents in different formats in order to maximize their potential in both the academic and artistic realms,” Villarreal said.
She explained how the input from the teachers helped create the schools design.
“The architects met with every department several times throughout the planning process and the teachers were able to provide one-on-one feedback as to what their expectations and needs were for their specific programs. In addition, a video was created for the architects and the school board that allowed for a representative of every program /department to show graphics and very detailed information as to the square footage, design of the space and the specific requirements and need of every department/program,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal explained some challenges they faced in designing the new campus.
“As with most building projects, the main challenge was to try and provide for the needs of every department and still stay within the budget allotted. One of the hardest things to do was to determine what would be the items/space cut from our original plan because of the funding limitations,” Villarreal said.
Villarreal explained her feelings towards the completed campus and its design.
“I am overjoyed and very proud of the design of our new school. After waiting for five years from the initial planning stage to the completion of the facility, I am very pleased with the end result. The wait time was well worth it, especially when you hear such positive comments from our students, faculty and all the community members who have visited our campus. We have had many visitors from many areas in Texas and beyond who have expressed amazement and disbelief at the innovation of the design and the state-of-the art equipment that we have to offer our students here,” she said.
She explained what the award means to her and to the teachers and staff.
“I am sure I speak for the faculty and staff when I say that we feel very proud and blessed to work in such a beautifully designed, cutting-edge and modern facility. The Award just validates what we already know… ‘that our VMT school is not only a beautiful facility but a very unique campus that promotes artistic endeavors and creativity and serves as a cultural beacon for the district and our community,’” Villarreal said.
Villarreal added: “I would like to add that although our new campus is beautiful and award winning, what truly defines our school is the type of student that attend this school. Our students are smart, creative, and respectful and, determined to succeed. We have many, many success stories about students who have gone on to become very successful in many fields, including in the area of the arts.”
‘Our kids deserve the best’
Superintendent Dr. A Marcus Nelson explained his vision for the new campus in an e-mail.
“As the superintendent of schools for Laredo ISD, I recognize the contributions of the late Vidal M. Trevino to our school district. This was his vision. I’m honored to carry on his vision for the students of Laredo ISD. Anyone who remembers his commitment to education, knows that I share his passion for equity in education. Our kids deserve the best so that they can be prepared to graduate from high school and attend the college of their choice, start a career, or join the military,” he said.
Nelson explains some of the challenges faced in the school’s design.
“Public schools across Texas have gone through some financially challenging times. LISD wanted to make sure sufficient funding was set aside for all the costs associated with building a new campus. I am very grateful that the LISD Board of Trustees worked diligently to make this new campus a reality. I also thank the voters of LISD for entrusting us with the resources to construct the new buildings. Once we selected the location at the former First Baptist Church, we also wanted to make sure that we optimized all the square footage made available to us. We even made use of an existing building which was incorporated into the new edifice seamlessly,” Nelson said.
He explained how he felt towards the new school.
“I am very proud to have this facility centrally located in the Heights neighborhood. I am honored to have worked with the LISD Construction Department, architects, construction company, contractors, and staff to complete this project on time and under budget. I am also very fortunate to work with the LISD Board of Trustees who take facilities planning so seriously. I look forward to the hundreds of performances in the new school and watch our students shine in a way that makes us all proud,” he said.
Nelson explains what the award means to him, teachers and staff.
“The building of the Treviño Magnet School was a team effort,” Nelson said. “For people outside of our district to recognize our collaboration is very satisfying. It would not have happened without many people’s input and time.”