|Carlin Springs Elementary School
Playful, multi-colored floor portrays theme of one world connected through natural resources.
When students walk down the corridors of Carlin Springs Elementary School, they have to climb mountains and wade through streams.
Yet, they never get dirty, nor do they get wet.
The reason: the "mountains" and "streams" are actually playful, multi-colored, custom-designed vinyl floors that help portray
an interior design theme of one world connected through natural resources.
Located in Arlington, VA, Carlin Springs Elementary School is a new, 87,000-square-foot facility that houses approximately
600 students. It was designed by Grimm and Parker, a 30-year-old architectural firm with offices in Virginia and Maryland.
Design Theme Inspired by Motto
According to architect and project team leader, John Hill, the design theme for Carlin Springs was inspired by the school’s
motto, which is "Making a World of Difference." "After talking with students and faculty, we felt it was important that everyone
in the school be conscious of the global aspects of that motto," he explains.
One of the ways the Grimm and Parker design team implemented the theme was to display flags from forty different countries
in the school’s main hall to help convey the notion of a global community. The flags correspond to each of the ethnic nationalities
represented in the school’s diverse student body.
Then, to communicate the concept of global ecology, the team created a number of custom-designed vinyl floors throughout the
school to depict the idea of one world connected through natural resources.
Corridor Floors Highlight World Ecology
To implement this theme, the Grimm and Parker team designed a number of corridor floors to represent mountains. They did so
through the use of a series of large interlocking triangles. The floors are designed so that one side of the corridor appears
to be blue mountains with white snow caps, while the other side appears to be brown or earthtone mountains with white caps.
They then designed other corridor floors to represent streams of water that flow down from the mountains. To create this visual,
the team used a narrow, serpentine strip of blue down the center of a corridor, flanked on one side by brown to represent
earth, and green on the other to represent vegetation. All of the "streams" that run through the hallways eventually "flow"
into the school’s main hall.
Hill also notes that the concept of world ecology is not limited to the corridors. It is present in the school’s cafeteria
as well, which also functions as the school’s performance area. Here, Hill and his team used a combination of five colors
in the floor.
A wide curvilinear band of blue representing the ocean runs longitudinally down the center of the cafeteria. Emanating outward
from the "ocean" on both sides are bands of light blue representing shallow waters, an earthtone representing sand and the
beach, and finally greens representing vegetation and forests.
VCT Chosen for Corridors, Cafeteria
The design team used Imperial Texture vinyl composition tile from Armstrong in all the corridors as well as the cafeteria
to create the visuals. Available in 70 colors, Imperial Texture tiles feature a "through-pattern" construction, which means
the color and pattern extend throughout the thickness of the tile. This prevents the creation of traffic lanes, and ensures
that the tile’s color and design will last the life of the floor.
According to Hill, "The overall effect is terrific. People simply don’t think of it as a vinyl composition tile floor because
they don’t expect to see that many curves in a VCT installation. Their expectation is to see straight lines."
In fact, Hill notes that the general contractor was somewhat skeptical that the job could be done well because of its complexity.
"To install that many curves in a rectilinear product seemed like it would be difficult. But, as it turned out, it was not
as hard as it looked."
CB Flooring of Columbia, Maryland, installed the floor. "There were very few problems," Hill says. "They did a great job of
creating and seaming the patterns. In fact, we were so pleased that custom-designed VCT went down so easily, we’ll probably
design more projects like this one, now that we’ve done it and it went so well."
School Receiving Plenty of Acclaim
According to Hill, reaction to the floor has been outstanding. "People really like the spirit and life the floor brings to
the building," he says. Reaction to the entire facility has been equally as good, to the point where the school is conducting
tours of the facility twice a week for local residents, officials from other school districts, and even other architects and
And, the school’s faculty and staff are not the only ones impressed with the new facility. The school has already won two
awards for architectural excellence -- one from the Virginia School Boards Association, the other from the Potomac Valley
Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. As one AIA juror noted in the verbatims, "This public school facility is
one of the best I’ve seen."