Form meets Function in the Edgerley Family Horizons Center
“If you give them reason to hope, reason to strive, if you offer them a challenging curriculum and a supportive staff in a world-class environment they are proud to be a part of, then you’re going to produce citizens who are world class themselves.”
Call it serendipity. The book Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland ended up on the desk of Horizons’ CEO Kate Barrand several years ago. In it, the author shares his philosophy and experience working in inner city Pittsburgh where he built a community center that became much more than just a place to take classes. Inspired by his writing, Kate adopted his thinking as the basis for the vision and design behind the new Edgerley Family Horizons Center. The result has been a building that is warm, welcoming and inspires children and families to aspire to something greater than they see in this particular moment of homelessness.
The building and its design
The Edgerley Family Horizons Center was designed to efficiently contain all of the spaces Horizons needs for its operational purposes. But great attention was also paid to making the spaces more than functional, but light and bright too. Every classroom features floor to ceiling windows that allow young children to view their surroundings clearly. Finishes were intentionally selected, using a soothing color palette, proven to evoke calmness. Spaces were designed with architectural features that support intimate gatherings like reading nooks. The library even has a child-sized seating area around a faux fireplace, something children likely haven’t experienced at home. Staff enjoy various spaces during their work day designed for community, connection and rest. The Horizons team was brought into the design process to make sure the finished product accommodated their needs, honored their cultures and enriched their sense of well-being. Families benefit from spaces all their own where they can observe their child in the classroom, use a computer in a room for work or meet privately with a Horizons’ coach to set goals and establish plans to achieve them. All of these spaces are furnished and decorated with prints, patterns and textures that reflect the diversity of what Horizons is and whom it serves.
Literacy is the foundation to academic success. Cozy child-sized seating in the Frederick W. Worcester Children’s Library invites children to gather and build a positive association with books.
Artwork for reflection and inspiration
The central piece of artwork featured in the Horizons Center was commissioned and created by local artist, Ekua Holmes, and brings far more than aesthetic value to the site. The original pieces are framed and hung in a large administrative space and a huge mural reproduction of the art greets visitors as they enter. Additional vignettes adorn the walls throughout the classroom hallways.
Ekua is a mixed-media artist and children’s book illustrator. Her primary method of art making is mixed media collage. By using layered newspaper, photos, fabric, and other materials, she creates colorful compositions which subtlety point to the interdependence that form our identities, both personally and collectively. In the pieces made for Horizons, the subjects were specially chosen to reflect and honor the cultures and experiences of the families we serve. They capture and convey a child-like optimism and energy and depict the human connections with parents and loved ones that foster healthy development.
The artist herself was raised and resides in Roxbury. These pieces reflect the neighborhood, the diversity of the people who live in Roxbury and beyond in the city of Boston.
Reinforcing Horizons and its mission
In addition to these important pieces of art, large wall spaces throughout the building show and tell all who visit what Horizons is about and who its employees are. Guests can’t miss the values and welcome walls as they enter the space. “Seeing our mission right there in front of us is as much for our team as it is our families. While some of the design features of the building are subtle, we wanted to be very direct to convey that all are welcome and valued. We believe that the families we serve are destined for something better and we’re here to help them and their child achieve it,” shared Kate.