NAC Architecture complete new school in Bellevue, Washington
The pursuit of highly energy efficient building solutions is driving designers to increasingly compact solutions. Ardmore Elementary School meets this challenge with a compact and energy efficient design while creating an experientially rich educational environment. The school reveals itself in layers, offering users an engaging 'slowness of discovery'. In collaboration with the users’ steering committee, the team identified three key planning goals; the new design was to create a sense of community, facilitate collaboration and link the school to nature and to its site.
Community and a culture of collaboration are best achieved in a non-hierarchical building. Each learning neighbourhood has direct and equal access, not only to the other neighbourhoods, but also to the core community assets of the school: multipurpose room, library, courtyards, nature and daylight. Ease of collaboration is achieved by encouraging learning at all scales; cultural, communal, and individual. Learning does not happen only in the classrooms. Core spaces and small classroom neighbourhoods featuring flexible shared space also support a variety of learning opportunities. Informal 'found' study areas provide additional personal accommodation for small groups and individuals.
This compact ('thick') building achieves openness and lightness ('thinness') through its paired courtyards, its open daylit central library, and its overall transparency between program spaces. Light, views, and nature pervade the school. Through windows, clerestories, and skylights; through view corridor 'slots' to the exterior; and through interior transparency and vertical volumes - light, views and nature reveal the responsive and evolving character and spatial experience of the school. Arriving at the site, one approaches an unassuming exterior and, after passing through daylit program spaces, discovers a light-filled core comprising both interior and exterior, one-storey and two-storey spaces. Hour by hour, day by day, this compact school reveals itself as an open, airy and stimulating surprise. The school opened in the fall of 2010.