Students in four design classes collaborate on adaptive reuse of historic school

December 13, 2011 By Doris Green

An open house at the historic White School in Spring Green will showcase the work of University of Wisconsin–Madison interior design students assigned to adapt the building for use as apartments and a studio.

The open house will take place at the former school, 242 Lexington St., on Sunday, Dec. 18, from 1–4 p.m.

The public is invited to view the students’ design solutions. On display will be presentation boards with floor plan concepts, elevation drawings, perspectives, and materials. Light refreshments will be served.

Twenty-six students taking Interior Design II with School of Human Ecology faculty associate Lesley Sager collaborated with students from Professor Wei Dong’s sketching and rendering class, lecturer Clayton Cartland’s class on architectural interiors and lecturer Brooke Godfrey’s computer-aided design course to create the final presentations. The students and Sager will be on hand to explain the creative ideas displayed.

Built in 1877 and used as a school until 1985, the White School is listed in the Sauk County Landmarks Registry. The two-story modified Italianate building sits on three lots and features original fixtures, eight-foot windows, 12-foot ceilings on the first floor, and 13-foot ceilings on the second floor.

In 1989 the River Valley School District sold the building to the Spring Green Congressional Church for an educational center. Current owner Eric Ferguson bought the school in 2002 and has been using it with few modifications as a photography studio.

The interior design students were tasked with maintaining the historic features of the building while transforming it to serve new uses. They focused on converting the second floor into an accessible, aging-in-place apartment, complete with an elevator and other features in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also redesigned the first floor to accommodate a small apartment and a studio.

“Our goal is to get the students to look differently at the environment around them,” Sager says, pointing out that this project is different than a typical kitchen or traditional home.

This is the second year that students have redesigned the building. Last year, Sager’s students created a bistro on the first floor; however, those plans turned out to be too costly to implement.

Ferguson is eager to share the White School with people.

“We’re curious about how people look at the space and we’re open at this point to ideas as to how best to use the space,” Ferguson says.

Other possibilities that Ferguson has thought about include a charter school and a gallery downstairs—there’s a garden out back and a beer and wine license for exhibition receptions.