Texas Middle School Taking Flight at Former Airport Site
By Eric Althoff
AUSTIN, Texas—Architect LPA has designed a three-story middle school for students in Austin’s northeastern side as well as in the adjacent city of Mueller. The school, which will be under the umbrella of the Austin Independent School District, will be situated on the site of Mueller’s now-defunct airport as part of a multiphase redevelopment plan for the 10-acre site. The reimagining is called the Mueller Development.
The campus will be home to nearly a thousand students in what LPA has envisioned as a flexible learning space so that education can take place anywhere, not merely inside a classroom. Accordingly, the architectural design offers collaborative breakout rooms, technology-supported spaces as well as “activated” outdoor spaces.
The 130,000-square-foot campus will sit on the former airport’s runway. It will be built up to LEED Gold standards, with roofs that can readily be set up for solar powering and environmentally friendly materials throughout the campus. Recycled water will be utilized to irrigate the grounds as well.
On the exterior, a streamlined courtyard will join together the various learning and activity environments as a “central park” of social areas. The campus is meant to blend seamlessly into the Mueller community itself thanks to bike lanes and sidewalks. Thus the campus will be an asset not just for the students and staff but also for the surrounding community, with people nearby allowed to use the campus’s library, dining commons, gymnasium, roof deck and track field.
To maintain the connection with the site’s former iteration as an airport, the gymnasium is being designed to look like an aircraft hangar. Furthermore, signage to assist with campus wayfinding will feature aerial motifs.
“LPA and Joeris General Contractors worked together through the integrated design-build delivery method to ensure that AISD’s priorities across stakeholders were balanced in the design,” Drew Johnson, director of bond planning and project controls for the AISD Construction Management Department, said in a recent statement. “That process of engaged listening ultimately led to a project that we are all excited to see come into reality and begin impacting the students it is intended for.”
“This school is the direct result of a wonderful collaborative process with educators and the community,” LPA design director Kate Mraw said recently. “AISD really trusted the design team to develop a design that is educationally innovative, environmentally responsible and contextually beautiful.”
Added Federico Cavazos, project architect at LPA: “The design recognizes the importance of planning the campus like a city. Our experience in mixed-use developments really helped us combine the goals of the school and community.”
The site redevelopment of the former airport was a design-build project designed by Coleman Landscape Architects working in coordination with Jeoris General Contractors. Construction is now underway and projected to be finished by the fall of 2023.