Exterior of MaST II Community Charter School’s Southeast facing side. Photo: Halkin/Mason Photography, LLC

MaST Community Charter School, recognized for its educational approach which incorporates art and robotic design into a science, technology, engineering and math curriculum, has officially opened its MaST II and MaST III campuses. The first phase of MaST II Tacony houses 600 students from throughout the Philadelphia region in roughly 30 classrooms, complete with specialized learning spaces to accommodate a modernized STEM education program, while MaST III supports 900, K-5 students.

“With thousands of applications, we felt it necessary to design a campus for growth and development in an education market looking for new and exciting practices,” says MaST Community Charter School CEO, John F. Swoyer III.

From the second floor of MaST II, students can enjoy the views of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge from the media center and library. Photo: Halkin/Mason Photography, LLC

The design and construction phases of both locations were conducted simultaneously and overseen by EwingCole executive vice president Keith Fallon. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Inga Saffron noted “the quality of the new designs ups the game for public education in Philadelphia.”

The project includes Kawneer 1600 curtainwall and Kawneer 451T storefronts with Solarban 60 glass.

Designed by local architecture, engineering and interior design firm, EwingCole, MaST II sits on the former site of Tacony Iron Works, the company that cast the William Penn statue atop Philadelphia City Hall.

“It was important to MaST that the design both celebrated the history of the site while maintaining the high-quality education space their students, parents and staff have come to expect,” says Andrew L. Donaldson-Evans, design principal at EwingCole. “We worked closely with administrators and staff to make sure that we hit the mark in terms of their vision for the project.”

Maker spaces allow for flexibility and are a critical component of MaST’s design. Photo: Halkin/Mason Photography, LLC

The structure’s exterior lies in stark contrast to the surrounding brick and mortar industrial warehouses. Made up of silver corrugated metal panels with golden yellow composite metal paneling articulating a large balcony, doorways and windows, the exterior design references maritime commerce and pays homage to the site’s industrial history. Floor-to-ceiling windows on the building’s southeastern side provide a full view of the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and a sprawling green lawn with access to the river-side Kensington & Tacony river trail and athletic fields.

“The building itself is flanked by both warehousing and light manufacturing, so we took the maritime component, due to its proximity to the river, and the industrial history and came up with the notion of shipping containers as inspiration,” said Donaldson-Evans.

The design’s shape and exterior materials were also a solution to design challenges. Budgeting and infrastructure, like electrical easements and flood plains, forced designers to minimize costs and adjust the design in real-time without sacrificing quality.

Recognizing those challenges, designers simplified elements of the structure and proposed phasing construction. Each of the rectangular forms will be arranged to provide easy access for multiple users and create courtyard spaces for elementary play and school-wide outdoor learning, while the engineering systems are left exposed as a means of using the building itself as a teaching tool.

“The new schools are big steps in expanding the reputation of the MaST Schools,” says Swoyer. “The students will be able to have an extensive campus that includes multiple amenities that can help enhance learning and expand the activities on the campus.”