School Building With A Retractable Roof Design

Years from now if Michael Horn has kids and they ask him what he did while he was a student at Emmaus High School, he can point to a green and gray building with a retractable roof behind the school and say: “I designed that.”


Under the guidance of architecture teacher Scott Didra, Horn was one of dozens of Emmaus students who worked on the design and construction of an observatory to house a large telescope that will be used by astronomy students for stargazing. Horn’s plan for the structure was the chosen design.

He was one of several Emmaus graduates who returned to the high school Thursday for the dedication of the observatory. Horn, who will be a junior at Penn State Main Campus this fall, was given the honor of pressing the button that makes the roof retract.

“It was a complete team effort,” Horn said afterward. “Seeing something that I designed on a computer, put down on paper, actually here in front of me, it’s amazing.”

It is the fourth large project Didra’s architecture classes have constructed since 2010. The first was a playhouse built 2010-12 in the Family and Consumer Sciences courtyard for the high school’s Child Development classes. In 2012-13, students designed and built the school’s ticket booth for sporting events at Memorial Field and 2013-14, they constructed the press box at the field.

“Throughout this process, I was saying ‘No way,'” he recalled. “The roof has to move, the roof has to open. This is ridiculous. There’s too many things that can go wrong. It’s above the level of a high school project.”

He was glad to be proved wrong.

The design-build process began in 2014 and there were several problems along the way, Didra said. Architects from Spillman Farmer of Bethlehem and MKSD of Allentown (including Didra’s architect son Christian), engineers from D’Huy Engineering, Bethlehem, and 4g Structural Engineers, Allentown, offered expertise. Levan Associates Inc., Emmaus, manufactured the system that opens the roof.

“It was so awesome to see the students build relationships with all of the people who supported and worked with them towards a common goal,” said Didra, who spoke about each contribution and gave plaques to those involved. Emmaus architecture students give future classes a way to reach for the stars – The Morning Call