A collaborative K-12 campus design by Marlon Blackwell Architects, EskewDumezRipple, and landscape architects Andropogon Associates has been named the winner of this year’s James D. MacConnell Award by the Association for Learning Environments. The project's completion and success were also accomplished thanks to local engineering firm CMTA.
The school's experiential learning curriculum is supported by the design, which can be used to communicate different ideas about local agriculture and the environment.
Awarded by the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE), the MacConnel Award "is bestowed upon a project that truly engages the stakeholders in all phases of the project while enhancing understanding of the interconnections of environment, learning, and teaching."
"The project-based educational vision — learning by doing — provided our team the opportunity to provide a well-designed innovative model for a school campus and facilities that are more than an instrumental collection of classrooms, but instead are places for inspired learning and discovery through the simple and dignified use of indigenous landscapes, everyday materials, ample daylight and humane spaces," Blackwell describes in a statement.
Blackwell, a professor at the University of Arkansas, was the design principal for four of the five buildings on the Thaden School campus. The school's "Home building" was designed by EskewDumezRipple, which acts as a "central link" to its surrounding buildings.
The new Thaden School campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, was commended by the jury as “pure poetry” and a “spirited design” that is “symbolic of the idea of an 'anti-school' where students receive a distinct message about the agency and respect afforded to their individual learning.”
‘Their vision [...] emphasized a connection to place and how students might connect their surroundings to their education and the world around them,” EskewDumezRipple Principal Steve Dumez said, speaking of the group effort involved in the design process. “When the client has already imbued the project with such a clarity of focus, our work as architects really becomes about simply upholding that vision. I think the end result speaks for itself, and the success that Thaden School has found both in its local community, as well as on the national stage, is due in large part to that clarity of vision."
Marlon Blackwell Architects also recently won the Dedalo Minosse International Prize for its Marygrove Early Education Center in Detroit. The firm also looks forward to the inauguration of its Whole Health Institute building in Bentonville, which is set for completion next year on the campus of the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art.
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