Mifflin School is a K–8 school in an elegant 1930s Art Deco structure sited prominently on a hilltop park in the city of Pittsburgh. Its lofty setting posed inherent problems, the chief of which was accessibility. No entry point existed that was not reached by multiple steps, and the gymnasium and auditorium were almost a full level below the main classroom floor. A modern, two-story addition had been added in the 1950s and created an L-shaped wing that enclosed a courtyard. However, the courtyard was only being used as a service drive and loading area.
Immediately upon considering the project, Strada’s design team decided that preserving the historic integrity of both the original Art Deco building and the 1950s addition was paramount, and had to be part of the design solution. The new work needed to be of a vocabulary that was complementary to the two distinct styles already present. Additionally, because the building had long been a vital part of the community, it was crucial that the new work both encouraged civic spirit and provided the right facilities.
Strada developed a solution that resolved the function and circulation issues, while establishing an architectural expression that complements the existing one. A new street facade was created that extended the character of the Art Deco building while establishing a new public space for the school. This glassy, double-height space functions as a dramatic entrance from both the parking lot and a new school bus drop-off along Elwell Street. The space also serves as a fully accessible entrance. A new elevator was installed within the original building to reach its upper floors, and service and loading are now accessed from the parking lot, away from student activity.