Kvernhuset Junior High School
Fredikstad, Norway, Pir II Arkitektkontor AS
Nature and learning are in perfect harmony at Kvernhuset Junior High School. The organic, varied furniture arrangements in the "home base" learning wings are orderly and random at the same time-reminiscent of leaves on a forest floor. The rocky, forested site is expressed but never dominated.
To approach the site, you cross a bridge over a pond. Three individual learning wings/houses are cut into the natural rock on the ground floor, and 40-ton granite blocks that were removed during excavation were built back into the main hall. Holes drilled directly into the rock provide geothermal energy. Students helped remove bark from trees that were harvested on the site and used as columns in the main hall, supporting a concrete roof covered with green sod. The same trees are part of the facade, juxtaposed with concrete to appear modern and primitive at the same time.
Each of the learning houses has a different color and theme, all relating to the site: the yellow wing focuses on energy-active and passive use of solar energy, solar cells, and monitoring of energy use. The blue wing focuses on water-collecting water from the roof, water saving utilities in toilets, and washbasins. The green wing focuses on ecological cycles-the growth and recycling of materials, vegetables, and plants both inside and outside.
Plans for the "home base" learning areas offer a wide variety of furniture configurations, supported by movable walls and a flexible infrastructure. Workbenches with sinks, informal meeting places, and small meeting areas permit individual, group, and project-based learning fluidly-surrounded by light filtering through the surrounding forest.
Hachoresh Elementary School
Zichron Ya’acov, Israel, Simon and Gideon Powsner
Hachoresh Elementary is like a Mediterranean village stepping down to the sea. "Even the smallest child can enjoy the view of the sea from the central piazza," the architect states. The school accommodates 800 students in a series of flexible learning areas clustered around courtyards. All learning areas have direct access to both a private outdoor court and a common interior court.
Each learning cluster includes five classrooms that share washrooms, a larger multipurpose space, and a smaller meeting area. The classrooms have a comfortable balance of enclosure-dividing walls on two sides, a window wall and door opening to a private outdoor court on the third side, and a clear-span opening to a common area on the fourth side. The result is a clearly defined space with acoustical and visual privacy and an opportunity to expand into common areas.
The early childhood area has its own small courtyard-a cozy little patio with a colonnade covering the entrance to the three junior units.
Review member John Mayfield identifies the key themes as home, the sea, and learning, and calls the execution superb. Another reviewer, Bill Ainsworth, called it a delightfully integrated and sensitive solution.
Tamil Nadu, India, Architecture Department/Auroville Building Centre
Bill Ainsworth said, "This little school for 70 students is delightfully scaled for use. It is a simple but elegant solution using local materials and techniques, producing pleasant volumes with flexibility accommodating multiuse spaces without a teaching/student hierarchy. Each classroom is physically linked to a personalized outdoor green space for gardening, building activity, and nature projects. This is a friendly and informal layout producing challenging interaction for a wide range of activity."
Rodolfo Almeida notes that the architecture takes advantage of the tropical climate, local materials, and building techniques, which provide partially open spaces and create "charming" learning spaces where children can sit and learn.
Susan J. Wolff supports the no teacher-student hierarchy, which encourages development of the whole person and progression at the child’s pace.
Yocha-de-He Preparatory School
Brooks, California, Gordon H Chong & Partners
The plan for a community center, elementary school, and administrative tribal office for the Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians celebrates the interrelationship of culture, sheltered space, and its scenic surroundings. The center features an exhibition hall to showcase tribal art and artifacts, and a 2,000-square-foot multipurpose assembly/conference center reminiscent of a traditional tribal lodge. Additionally, the school has a fitness room, library, classrooms, an office suite, and kitchen.
In its philosophy and execution, this school is definitely "new paradigm," according to Prakash Nair. The facility features multi-age classes, "cave" space that encourages various learning styles and respect for the outdoors, and interesting architectural elements such as the covered canopy over the performance area. The spaces nicely incorporate Native American culture while creating an intimate setting that does not have the look and feel of an institution.
IslandWood: A School in the Woods
Bainbridge Island, Washington, Mithun
Bill Ainsworth likes this facility’s ambitious "mission" of inspiring environmental awareness and community stewardship. Each element was carefully considered, including the use of site-harvested materials crafted into the structures by local artisans. The architecture responded directly to the program and the technology is clearly articulated in the building form and scale. This school design is thoughtful, interactive, and friendly.
Jeff Lackney, who remarked that this project took the 3D textbook idea seriously, liked how the project incorporates much of the state-of-the-art in sustainable design.
Honor Award-Reviewer category
Heinavaara Elementary School
Heinavaara, Finland, Cuningham Group Architecture P.A., with Bruce Jilk, review team member
Lots of new ideas and the beauty lies in the fact that each is uniquely local even though they imported not only the building technique but architects and carpenters as well. The architects describe the project as one where, "the design and construction of the school met unique community needs: it used local resources, taught a new construction technique, provided flexible learning spaces, incorporated local customs and architecture-including a 10-foot-high traditional Karelian fireplace and an ornate front entry canopy-and allowed for multiple community uses."
Heinavaara Elementary School was designed with learning spaces of varying sizes that support hands-on learning, individual learning, group learning, and myriad school and community gatherings.
The mayor of a small town (population of 1,000) in Finland wanted to boost his community’s economic development by building a new elementary school. He wanted to expand the local wood products industry using the North American school building technique of wood platform framing. The school was to be a "wooden school of tomorrow," blending leading edge school design and 21st century technology with the rich heritage of North Karelia. To accomplish the mayor’s goal, a vision-based planning approach was used with a design team composed of parents, teachers, students, and local university professors.
Honor Award – Reviewer category
Kapolei High School
Kapolei, Hawaii, Mitsunaga & Associates Inc., with Bruce Jilk, review team member
Recognizing the total student population is quite large, this project works at multiple levels to realize an extremely human setting by carefully weaving social spaces throughout the campus. According to Prakash Nair, "This is one of the few projects that actually relied on a well-respected research study ‘Breaking Ranks’ to design all aspects of the school’s organization and facilities. Though this is a very large school, there are some good efforts to break down its scale through identifiable neighborhoods. All the usual ideas about encouraging different kinds of learning are represented. I particularly like the outdoor areas for students to mingle and socialize, such as the food court and the plazas."
Honor Award – Reviewer category
Crosswinds Arts and Science Middle School
Woodbury, Minnesota, Cuningham Group Architecture P.A., with Bruce Jilk, review team member
This project was highly regarded by the panel. One reviewer summed up the panel’s response by saying that one of the most valuable things this school does is bring urban and suburban students together. The school recognizes most of the well-established principles of size, variety, real home bases as opposed to "classrooms," flexibility of learning spaces, and opportunities to accommodate a variety of learning styles. Where many projects start out seeking human scale and intimate spaces-and fail-this school is a valuable reference point for all who value those attributes.