Seattle Design Awards 2006
The Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects has just celebrated its 55-year-old program of design awards honoring the "the state of the art in architecture produced by the Washington design community." The chosen projects emphasize an environmental sensitivity and sense of place in a variety of regions throughout the state and in the very different but "neighboring" states of Alaska and Hawaii.
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The only honor award went to an environmental learning center at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Kirkland, Washington, designed by Mahlum Architects. The underlying design concept was "learning is all about creating connections — with each other and with the environment."
The architects crafted Franklin Elementary to support such connections by creating small "learning communities" that finger out into the surrounding environment. They clustered sets of four classrooms around a shared activity area to support groupings of fewer than 100 students.
Each shared activity area features large glazed pocket doors to promote visual connections to the surrounding four classrooms. These doors slide open to enable a commingling of all four classes. This flexibility supports daily changes of use of these areas, facilitating a variety of grade configurations and instructional models.
Looking outward, the floor plan responds to the forested site. Two-story classroom wings reach toward the site's large wooded area, visually and physically connecting students with nature for learning and recreation.
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