Sure, learning can happen anywhere, but having a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space to do so is a perk that most people would be happy about. The AIA Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) recognizes the value in top-notch educational facilities in their annual Education Facility Design Awards.
As its name indicates, the program highlights projects — from K-12, private, charter, and special-purpose schools — that are considered exemplary learning environments and also exhibit architectural-design excellence.
For 2015, the awards jury selected nine projects to receive awards. Have a look at them below.
Award of Excellence: Berklee Tower | Berklee College of Music; Boston
William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.
"This 16-story mixed-use building creates a center of gravity and a strong identity for the Berklee College of Music campus. Most prominent is a 40 foot high performance/dining space that fronts onto a major Boston thoroughfare, showcasing student performances nightly. Twelve floors, housing 380 students plus a fitness center and music practice rooms, sit above the performance space. Six double height lounges on the residential floors help build community by linking two floors of students. In support of Berklee’s growing programs in music technology, two floors below grade house the largest recording studio complex in New England."
Walter Taylor Award: e3 Civic High School; San Diego
"From the entry park the central circulation provides students with more than just a path of travel. The transparent connection between education and community is emphasized with the central steps and gallery space connecting the two floors. Every gathering space has a pull out or quiet area and every learning cluster or village has a small team room in addition to the larger social space. These informal environments support 21st century learning skills with areas for critical thinking, collaboration, and communication. To encourage movement throughout e3, every space has multiple functions to give purpose and attract multiple users."
Award of Merit: Carl Sandburg Elementary School; Kirkland, Washington
"Preserving and enhancing the park-like feel of the northwest corner of Carl Sandburg Elementary School was central to the planning of the replacement school. The majority of the classroom neighborhoods are focused on a grove of 70 year old Big Leaf maples, creating multiple outdoor learning spaces that enjoy the natural setting. The school accommodates a capacity of 600 students in neighborhoods of either 3 or 4 classrooms. Each neighborhood is organized around an open shared learning area, small group rooms, and teacher planning areas. Transparency between spaces expands the classroom, allowing small and large group activities to occur in the adjacent shared areas."
Award of Merit: Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson
"The Clough Commons supports collaborative learning, scientific instruction and undergraduate life at the center of Georgia Tech’s campus. The three dimensional grid of circulation and daylight frames large zones of flexible furnished common spaces supporting student study, interaction and experiential learning. The building transforms its hillside site, anchoring campus circulation and framing Tech Green, the school’s central outdoor space. Clough Commons has become the hub of academic activity on the Tech campus, while its landscaped roof garden is one of Tech’s most popular destination amenities."
Award of Excellence: Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB), University of Arizona & Northern Arizona University; Phoenix, Arizona
CO Architects with Ayers Saint Gross
"The most salient external design feature of the project is the striated copper cladding, which is a response to the harsh desert climate. The design meets the two universities’ high aspirations for identity, sustainability and powerful new learning environments. Many student-focused spaces encourage interaction between students and lecturers. The instructional elements of the project are organized in east-west blocks to minimize the building’s exposure to the intense Arizona sun. These blocks are located close together, creating a narrow, man-made 'canyon'. This self-shaded space is for outdoor gatherings and provides access to lecture halls and innovative learning studios."
Shirley Cooper Award: Nueva School at Bay Meadows; San Mateo, California
Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
"The Nueva School presents high school students with an integrated “ecology of learning” that connects them to a complex changing world. The new campus provides a landscape of innovative educational spaces that supports cross disciplinary engagement and project-based inquiry, fosters a strong community, and models healthy, low-carbon living and learning. Adaptively reusing space at a former horse racing venue, the school is an integral new part of its budding community."
Award of Merit: Reed College Performing Arts Building; Portland, Oregon
Opsis Architecture LLP
"Reed College’s Performing Arts Building consolidates theatre, dance, and music programs, previously scattered across the 116-acre campus, into a vibrant and cross-disciplinary home for the arts. The 78,000-square-foot building incorporates spaces specifically attuned to the technical needs of each program, yet adaptable to encourage teamwork, experimentation, and change. The building functions as the public front door to the campus. A variety of sustainable design strategies fully complement its numerous functions. All performance and teaching spaces open to the three-level, light-filled, arts atrium merging informal and formal learning."
Award of Excellence: University Center, The New School; New York City
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP with SLCE Architects
"This new multipurpose facility is the 'heart' of The New School. With its 230,000-square-foot, seven-story campus center and 130,000-square-foot residential tower, the University Center reimagines the organizing elements of a traditional campus, from quads to classrooms and living quarters. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal campus pathways work together to facilitate movement through the building, while increasing opportunities for interaction among students and faculty, reflective of the university’s interdisciplinary nature. Academic spaces are flexible and easily adaptable, and can be renovated or reconfigured with minimal impact on power, data, or lighting to meet changing needs."
Award of Excellence: Vashon Island High School; Vashon Island, Washington
"Located on a small island in Puget Sound, the design team worked with the community to understand the close connection the students have to the landscape. The design team sought to preserve this sense of connection by imparting a quality of porosity to the new building. The concept of porosity defines how the building supports spatial connections and how students move in and out of the building. Shared areas are located adjacent to more formal teaching spaces, while a learning commons extends the library. A small group presentation room is perched within the commons and a central courtyard provides sheltered outdoor learning areas."
The 2015 jury members included: J. Stuart Pettitt, AIA (Chair), Straub Pettitt Yaste Architects, William C. Ayers, education advocate; Victoria S. Bergsagel, Architects of Achievement; Mark Kranz, AIA, SmithGroup JJR and Robert Miklos, FAIA, designLAB architects.
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