Heads in the Cloud

Portrait of Xiaoxue Iris Ma
  • Xiaoxue (Iris) Ma, M.Arch. 2020
  • Hometown Jinan, China
  • Class ARCH 5114 Core Design Studio: New Re:Public School
  • Instructor Jason Long
    Yusef Ali Dennis

A public school in Newark, New Jersey, Heads in the Cloud performs double duty. During the day it is a school that caters to two opposite learning styles — children learn collectively in an open-plan classroom or explore their own interests in individual bubbles. After school hours, the gym and cafe become public amenities and the open field a much-needed public gathering space.

Conceptually, the individual learning spaces are elevated for privacy, simultaneously allowing the city to flow through the building in section and creating a portal connecting the Newark Penn Station to the north with the rest of the Ironbound District to the south. In terms of performance, the cloud bubbles harvest rainwater for reuse in sanitary systems and landscape irrigation; the bubbles are also integrated into the HVAC circuit of the building, bringing in fresh air from up high.