Virginia Beach Middle School is unlike any other school in Virginia Beach. Sitting just blocks from the oceanfront and nestled into a very small site in an established residential community proved a challenge for the design team. The character of the neighborhood block structure and its architectural style had to be addressed by a school building and site design fitting in scale and texture. These issues were overcome by stacking the building footprint into 3-stories, stepping back the height toward the existing residential homes, and mimicking an Arts & Crafts architectural style already resonate in the community. The LEED Silver certified project adds street definition to the neighborhood gridded streets with column and hedge perimeter treatments around ballfields, structured bioretention beds, and on-street parking. The rear of the site is softened by gracious open space and a system of rain gardens and a multipurpose trail which connects to the neighborhood and a nearby park. As the landscape architect for this project, WPL was instrumental in all aspects of the site design from concept to completion.
The Virginia Beach Middle School project completely integrates the school site with the western marsh environment through pedestrian access as well as native planting design that expands the fabric of the existing wetland forest onto the school site. CBPA buffer plantings provide lower canopy habitat for wildlife and native tree plantings extend the forest canopy. The cafeteria and art classroom wings are completely open to the west and provide a panoramic view to the marshlands as well as the proposed rain gardens and shrub buffers. The landscape is designed to be self-sustaining. Turf areas are mainly limited to the athletic fields and a small area along the 24th street corridor. All plant materials installed on the VBMS site are native to Tidewater, Virginia and should not require any enhanced level of maintenance.