Colorful new look for Mattapan elementary school

The Mattahunt School on Hebron St. sports a colorful new exterior for today's first-day of class. Photo courtesy BPS

Students at the Mattahunt Elementary School will return to a dramatically improved school building today— the result of an $8 million city-funded modernization project that wrapped up over the summer. The renovation — which focused on exterior improvements to the Mattahunt campus – included a new roof, windows and landscaping. But, it’s the Lego-like color scheme on the building’s sheet metal façade that is the real eye-catcher.

“It was a nice confluence of good design and a good contractor that came together at a great location,” explains Joe Mulligan, the city’s deputy director for property and construction management. “Looking out from the school, you can see this idyllic, wooded setting that it’s in now. It’s real a lovely campus.”

The new look for the building was designed by Gale Associates and Utile Architects, which Mulligan described as the “hot design shop” in Boston at the moment. Reliable Roofing and Sheet Metal did the construction work.

“They came up with some pretty interesting concepts that were presented to the school community and they really seemed to love the look of traditional fabrics and textiles in the look,” said Mulligan. “The kids, I think, really loved the vibrancy of the colors.”

The school, which shares a campus with the community center of the same name (now administered privately by Wheelock College) was in dire need of repairs. The structure itself is about 40 years old and needed a new and a “skin” transplant.

“It looked like someone dropped an empty refrigerator in the middle of the woods there,” Mulligan said. “We had to take the skin off the building while it was still occupied with students last year. The layout allowed us to break it into pods and we built a temporary wall so kids could be in class. Then we took off the exterior walls – and in many instances put in new floor to ceiling glass panels.”

Jennifer Marks, the Mattahunt’s principal, says that some of the building’s windows were so old that they couldn’t be properly closed even in cold weather.

“The kids would have to put on coats in some of the classrooms because it was cold,” she said. “Now we have beautiful new windows that look out from the building and the footbridge. We are ecstatic.”
Mulligan explains that the outer cladding of the building “was an old technology that had well outlived its useful life.”

The new skin— a multi-colored metal that gives the building its building-block look— is also updated with state-of-the-art energy and thermal requirements.

Mulligan says that Mayor Menino— who was at the Democratic convention in North Carolina this week— could not be there for the first day of school, but has seen the finished product and is “impressed with the transformation.”

Gareth Kinkead, a longtime civic activist from Colorado Street, said he and other neighbors were given input into the design plans during meetings two years ago. Kinkead said he is “delighted” with how it’s turned out.

“I think it’s wonderful and long overdue,” Kinkead said this week. “One of enjoyable things is for children to see something nice and beautiful as their walking into school each day. It’s really a welcome sight and another sign that Mattapan is really on the move.”

Mrs. Marks, the principal, says the school community will be in for a pleasant surprise this morning.
“I think it’s going to make a tremendous difference in the learning environment,” said Marks.