Landscape as a teaching tool

James
23 Feb 2010

NAC Architecture completes new school that utilises the surroundings as part of the learning process

Designed to connect the building to nature through views and landscaped courts, the school invites the use of the whole site as a teaching tool. The school’s organisation in small pavilions and a series of courtyards increases the opportunity for stimulating indoor / outdoor learning. Designed to reveal itself through a gradual revelation of the shifting relationship of interior to exterior learning spaces, the building encourages a 'slowness' of experience and understanding that makes learning palpable. The building and landscape are peers and partners in this slow dance. The heightened attention to landscape design supports relevant learning of arts and science and encourages the students’ life-long affection for the natural environment.

Material and texture help define scale and distance, and encourage approaching and inhabiting spaces. They give human scale to the building and define the building 'voids' such as the entry plaza and courtyards. As the building interior reveals itself, the textures and materials become warmer and of smaller scale. The siding pattern and floor textures in the central courtyard respond to the courtyard’s scale, location and to its varied uses; an outdoor classroom, an exterior foyer for community events, a place for small group study, or simply a place for relaxation and meditation.

Completed in the fall of 2009, the school is developed in several simple two-storey forms expressing a confident quality necessary for a civic project. The scale and quality of the exterior courtyards engage the surrounding context with a welcoming urban invitation.

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