The high school and elementary school design focuses on the experiential quality of architecture as an essential ingredient for meaningful learning. The design reinterprets the original character of the site, thereby imbuing the new experience with a rich and varied relationship to nature.
Through mountain views, sloping terrain, courtyards, bridges, and a tactile landscape of salvaged logs and boulders, nature enriches the learning environment. The site character is both the poetic inspiration for and an active participant in the daily experience of the users of the school.
The integration of the site design, outdoor spaces, and the nature path allow programs like science and art to expand outdoors and connect with other programs, expanding the capacity of educators to allow the natural history of the site to enhance and broaden the learning process. The site is integrated into all aspects of school life. Starting with the elementary school, nature is brought into the daily life of the school. As one moves to the high school, nature continues to permeate your experience, establishing a lifelong relationship with the environment.
According to the architects, the task of the 21st Century learner is increasingly about making connections between various disciplines, ideas, and patterns.
The integration of the site design, outdoor spaces, and the nature path allow programs like science and art to expand outdoors and connect with other programs, expanding the capacity of educators to allow the natural history of the site to enhance and broaden the learning process.
Personalizable Prospect & Refuge Spaces
The prospect and refuge spaces dynamically alternate throughout the site and the buildings.
Prospect & Refuge Character
Prospect and refuge spaces change character according to students’ age, space function and its relationship to the site. The elementary school shared small group area has a strong sense of protection. The high school library has the ultimate prospect view to the distant mountains. The Performing Art Center lobby “brings in” the panoramic quality of the wooded site edge.
Nature Path: Authentic Outdoor Learning Environment
The Nature Path runs through both schools bringing a natural character to the many outdoor learning areas. The infusion of nature into these environ- ments helps students appreciate and learn from the landscape, teaching the benefits of sustainability.
Site Memory: Interpretations of the site.
The design honors and reinterprets the character of the previously forested site through integrating salvaged boulders, stumps, and logs into the land- scape; a memory. They serve both as a tacit reminder of the site’s history and as tactile sculptures intended to encourage student curiosity, allowing nature to become the teacher.
Social and communal spaces were implemented in and adjacent to the Nature Path create indoor and outdoor opportunity for social, recreational, educational and civic use.
Addendum to original article
Glacier Peak High School is the recipient of an American School & University 2010 Educational Interiors Showcase Gold Citation for Cafeterias/Food-Service Areas. Describing the only K-12 school to win a Gold Citation, the jury, composed of school administrators and AIA-member architects, noted that the design of the cafeteria/commons space featured “exceptional siting with dramatic views. The space is innovative and flexible, filled with sustainable design features.”
Comprising Glacier Peak High School and Little Cedars Elementary School, Snohomish School District’s 64-acre master-planned Cathcart Site also has been honored with prestigious awards. The American Institute of Architects Committee on Architecture for Education (AIA CAE) presented the Cathcart Site with a 2010 Award of Excellence for exceptional design, the top honor bestowed by the organization. In addition to creating the master plan, NAC|Architecture designed Little Cedars Elementary School, recipient of a Learning By Design 2009 Citation of Excellence.
The AIA CAE Educational Facility Design Awards program annually honors excellence in educational and cultural facilities. While showcasing and celebrating exemplary architecture for education, the program also identifies trends and emerging ideas and disseminates the best ideas and knowledge about educational facility planning and design to clients, architects and the public.
The AIA Washington Council conferred a 2010 Civic Design Merit Award on the Cathcart Site. The annual Civic Design Awards program identifies public projects that are hallmarks of civic design. Civic projects earn the Merit Award by best exemplifying their particular type of civic space.
Structural/Civil: Coughlin Porter Lundeen
Mechanical: Hargis Engineer
Landscape: Weisman Design Group
Acoustical: SSA Acoustics
Geotechnical: Associated Earth Sciences, Inc.
Theater Consultants: Ward Design Group
Text content by the architects, images courtesy of the AIA.