No. 491 . 22 September 2010 
ArchitectureWeek

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A light shelf bounces daylight deep into a classrom at the Thurston Elementary School by Mahlum. Photo: © Lincoln Barbour

Educational Building

by ArchitectureWeek

At two schools in the Pacific Northwest, daylit classrooms stand in small clusters rather than linear arrays along corridors. Architecture firm Mahlum designed these buildings — Gray Middle School in Tacoma, Washington, and Thurston Elementary School in Springfield, Oregon — to foster small "learning communities" within each school.

The two buildings were honored in the 2010 AIA Educational Facility Design Awards. All nine schools and university facilities honored this year by American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) include some elements of sustainable design.

And some meet a high environmental standard, such as the two schools that were among the AIA Committee on the Environment's Top Ten Green Projects for 2010: Sacred Heart Preparatory's Michael J. Homer Science and Student Life Center in Atherton, California, by Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects, rated LEED Platinum under LEED for Schools; and Manassas Park Elementary School in Manassas Park, Virginia, by VMDO Architects, certified LEED-NC Gold.

Middle School in Washington

Tacoma's Gray Middle School rose on the site of a deconstructed high school. The long, two-story new school is organized into multidisciplinary clusters of classrooms — three such clusters on each floor. Each five-classroom cluster is anchored by a larger science room, and has direct access to an outdoor courtyard.

The ground-floor clusters also include a shared space for large-group activities, while above them, the corresponding second-floor spaces are designed for small-group work. The orientation of the clusters allows most of the classrooms to receive daylight on either northern or southern exposures.   >>>

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