iTech is currently in Design Development (DD) and our designers have been coming up with creative solutions to make into reality their ideas of a space where middle and high school students interested in a project-based learning environment could thrive and study. Our team has thought of means to utilize the landscape and values of the school to partner together in unique and profound ways.
iTech will be located on a slope, so our designers viewed it as an opportunity to rethink entrances. The intent was to work the slope to their advantage so that teachers and students had an easy way to access the outside regardless of them being on the first or second floor. The main entrance will be located on the first floor facing south, providing easy access for visitors. The north entry on the second floor is intended for faculty, staff, and students. A bridge was designed to fill the gap between the hill and the building, lined by a fir forest serving to shade those retreating in and out.
One of iTech’s core values is collaboration. iTech wants a space where all the students could work together and the whole building was made in such a way to show the design process. A three-story building was visualized with a grand presentation display at the heart. The initial thought was to make that core of the building 3 stories, but the challenge was that code would have classified that as an atrium. Consequently, that would have required a smoke control system and significantly increased design and construction costs. The solution was rather to make the presentation area a two-story space with a diagonal ceiling, retaining the high open look they desired, simultaneously granting more dynamic visuals that would stay within code.
There has been a mindset shift in academia from transparency within buildings being distracting to students to being viewed as a positive feature. It is important to the faculty at iTech for there to be a flexible space for the students. They want a building with transparency to allow for teachers and kids to be able to observe each other. Benefits can include that students are always in teachers’ line of sight even when they are in their maker spaces and labs. The Principal and parents can easily observe what’s going on in classrooms without being disruptive. Younger students can see what the older students are working on and be inspired. And lastly, youth becomes more engaged having less claustrophobic classrooms.
An innovative design feature to grant flexible spaces was including an electrically glazed display in the presentation space. The surface serves a dual purpose as both a projector and a sheet of glass, allowing a great deal of light to pour into the building. It provides acoustical separation for the students so when they present they can do so without interrupting the other students’ activities. Having these flexible areas speaks to the impact intentional design can make in one’s learning environment!