Regional Science and Technology Center also new D-B 'front door'

Rick Wagner • Feb 24, 2017 at 10:58 AM

KINGSPORT — An iconic local high school, built when the Beatles were on the radio and the Vietnam War and protests against it raged, is about to get a 21st century science and technology addition and a new “front door” to boot. 

The Kingsport Board of Education, some students and members of the public Thursday during a BOE work session got some glimpses of what the new Regional Science and Technology Center and new entrance to Dobyns-Bennett High School will look like. Staff of Atlanta-based architectural firm Perkins+Will presented conceptual renderings and proposed layouts of the triangular-shaped addition to go at the front of D-B.

The three-story, 70,000-square-foot addition is to include 18 labs and an atrium space BOE members suggested could be used for band and orchestra performances, as well as outside spaces that could be used for robotics and environmental learning. It also includes two teacher work areas, six student work areas, two other larger labs, four small research labs, a cafe and administrative offices.

The architects said the design looks to the future while paying homage to the past of the 1967 building with domed roofs and hexagonal walls. Tentative plans are to incorporate letters modeled after the front wall high school sign in the floor of the atrium and brand the space with colors and shapes fitting in with D-B today and its heritage.

“The community is very proud of the high school and this is a big change to it,” BOE President Eric Hyche said.

BOE member Karen Reed-Wright, a retired city teacher who graduated from D-B, and other board members were impressed with the design but said the branding outside the building should be D-B and the science and technology branding inside. However, BOE Vice President Susan Lodal and members Carrie Upshaw and Todd Golden suggested an off-center sign for the side in the front.

Principal architect Barbara Crum, associate principals Marco Nicotera and John Poelker and branded environment designer Katie Janson gave a presentation, including a history of the development of the plans going back to May of 2016.

“It is triangular like an arrowhead,” D-B Principal Chris Hampton said after the BOE work session.

The addition would mean the loss of four of the 114 existing classrooms but add 18 new ones for a total of 128 classrooms or room for 2,500 students at 85 percent capacity. D-B has more than 2,200 students this year. Plans are to use yellow brick to match the existing school brick as closely as possible, although the front will be glass.

The project, estimated to cost about $20 million, would be bid out in August of this year and completed in time for use in January of 2019, according to Poelker’s timeline. It would be funded by proceeds from a $140 million countywide bond issue that also will fund the city’s purchase and renovation of North High School/Middle School into a city middle school, a new 1,700-student Sullivan County high school off Exit 63 of Interstate 81 and a new middle school near Sullivan East High School and a new Vance Middle School in Bristol, Tenn. 

Nicotera said they loved the high school, its students and programming but immediately saw it lacked a natural, intuitive entrance. The building is to use lots of glass to give transparency and a welcoming effect, sort of like a front porch.

“Everyone can see great things going on,” Nicotera said. “It sort of provokes intellectual curiosity.”

Janson said she used everything from existing logs and colors to Instagram photos from students to work on coloring, graphics and branding for the building, which may have vertical glass or clear plastic signs with phrases or words on them. Hyche asked if those could be changed electronically, and the architects said they would research it.

“The vertical banners, it took me a while, but they are really growing on me,” Hyche said. 

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