Imagine designing space for work and play as comfortable for the Munchkins as for the handful of full-sized men and women in Oz — and dress 'em all in cowboy hats and boots.
Now you're thinking like architect Lisa Chronister has been since she returned to Oklahoma City from New York City.
Chronister, 38, spent six years in New York but is back at LWPB Architecture, as a principal in the firm, working mostly on classrooms and other spaces for early-childhood education. She and her husband, Aaron Mooney — and baby Eli, 8 months old — moved less than three months ago.
Chronister, who grew up at Fittstown, just south of Ada, hit the trail running — the famed Chisholm Trail, which is the theme for the new Bill Wallace Early Childhood Center for Chickasha Public Schools. Construction should begin by the end of this year with the school open by fall 2012, she said.
The library-media center is the Trading Post. The dining room, of course, is the Chuckwagon. The gym is the Corral. The hallway is the trail itself. Classroom clusters have names like Mustang Mesa and Roadrunner Ridge and others that rely on animals associated with the Old West — to pique children's interest.
The Chisholm Trail, which passed through present Chickasha, became the theme for the project early on. How to make it relevant to the prekindergarten and kindergarten pupils?
"What do little kids care about the Chisholm Trail? It's the Old West. But what do little kids care about the Old West?” the design team wondered. The brainstorm brought the animals of the Plains and prairies to mind, she said — and all little kids like animals.
Architectural design for early childhood education, Chronister said, requires dealing with the intersection of two distinct physical scales: people "under 36 inches, and how they use space,” and zones and spaces for teachers.