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Evelyn Mitchell Infant School cops top architectural award

Tuesday, June 24, 2014    

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ALMOST four years after being designated Jamaica's first early childhood centre of excellence by the Ministry of Education, the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School/Centre of Excellence has received yet another accolade.

At the Jamaican Institute of Architects' 2014 awards ceremony, the school's architectural designers, Taylor Architects, were presented with the Governor General's Award for Architecture as well as the award of merit in the Public and Institutional Category.

The idea for the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School/Centre of Excellence was born in 2008 when Cari-Med's founders Glen and Marva Christian were approached to assist with upgrading facilities for Top Hill Basic, a small school in the hills of Clarendon, Jamaica. The extremely 'basic' facilities available to the community's young residents tugged at their hearts, leading to the decision to build an entirely new school on lands owned by the Jamaica Baptist Union.

In September 2010, the new school — named in memory of Glen Christian's late mother, Evelyn Mitchell — opened its doors to more than 100 students from Top Hill and neighbouring communities. The 7,000-square-foot facility was constructed at a cost of approximately $70 million and is the largest infrastructural project undertaken by the Cari-Med Foundation to date. The state-of-the-art facility includes three classrooms, six bathrooms, a fully functional kitchen and eating area, an auditorium, a library, and administrative offices. The school, which is operated by the Ministry of Education, surpasses the requirements of the Early Childhood Commission.

In designing the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School, Taylor Architects sought to develop a structure that would complement the natural beauty of its surroundings, while creating an environment in which young minds would be stimulated to explore and expand. Their efforts have earned them the highest recognition from their industry.

Commenting on their decision to award the top prize to the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School project, the assessors noted, the "careful scale that appears welcoming to the children (rather than imposing or controlling), the very nice solution of the classrooms with high clerestory windows that make the rooms airy providing the necessary concentration, the way all design decisions seem appropriate to the pedagogical aims of the programme, from the terracing and landscape to the 'didactic walls'."

In congratulating Taylor Architects on the award, Christian said he hoped this recognition would also serve to focus attention on the shortage of suitable early childhood facilities across Jamaica.

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