Bristol, CT – The City of Bristol is in the final phase of completing the Bristol Arts and Innovation Magnet School (Bristol AIMS) located on the grand Memorial Boulevard in the city’s west end. QA+M Architecture was engaged by the city to restore and expand the historic Memorial Boulevard School for its new arts curriculum.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the building, designed by architect George Wilson Potter, who was known for his schools and libraries throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. Sanitary, well-ventilated, and well-lit, the former Bristol High School was an example of the culmination of many years of study on the architecture of school buildings. It also represented the prosperity and growth of Bristol as an industrial city. It housed an indoor swimming pool, gymnasium, and outdoor athletic fields, as well as a full professional-grade theater with a stage, fly space, and seating for over 900 patrons.
The goal of QA+M’s renovation and addition project was to create a new intra-district magnet school for Bristol middle and high school students which, while offering a full core curriculum, would also support students to excel in studying visual and performing arts. To that end, contemporary studio spaces were created within the building’s former classrooms to support not only traditional arts like painting and sculpture, but also arts technologies including animation, computer-assisted drafting, and 3-D virtual design. There is an art gallery located on the main level of the building, which can also serve as a pre- and post-theater event space.
The music program will be located in new large choral and band rooms that make use of the taller spaces in the building for improved acoustics. Adjacent to the music suite are two sound studios for electronic music, composition, and professional recording technology. The acting and dance program at the new magnet school makes use of the restored historic theater within the building, and a black box “studio theater” is located in the former pool space. Both are enhanced with entirely new lighting, rigging, audio, and acoustical systems.
A new formal lobby with a ticket booth and concessions area has been fashioned so the space can function as a community resource for professional shows. The addition at the rear of the stage house contains theater support spaces including scene and costume shops, which also serve the performing arts curriculum. The “Rockwell Theater” is designed to not only train students for performance and tech production at a professional level but also provide the city with one of the larger performing arts seating venues in Connecticut.