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"Section 5: 2007 Merit Award Winners"

Section 5: 2007 MERIT AWARDS

  • Eureka School: AID India (India)
  • Polaris K-12 School (Alaska, US)
  • Marysville Getchell High School (Washington, US)
  • Desjardins Information Hub (Canada)
  • The Calhoun School (NY, US)
  • Galilee Catholic Learning Community (Australia)
  • Harris Family Children’s Center (New Hampshire, US)
  • ***


    What a story - I am most impressed by the pride which comes across in narrative, presentation, photos, and the children’s faces. There are many noteworthy features, those mentioned above plus the central performance/multi-purpose space, which is open-air and can support a huge variety of activities; the outdoor features to promote curiosity; the sustainable features… – Amy Yurko

    Location: Parameswaramangalam, India
    Designer: ArcheStudio Chennai Private Ltd.
    Program: Elementary School, Grades K-5
    Capacity: 150
    Completion: 2006


    The school along with a village library, science lab, computer center and livelihood center forms a development campus for a village cluster affected by the December 26, 2004 Tsunami located at Walodai Village, Tamilnadu State, India.

    Locally, the quality of education is a huge problem, with over 50% children by grade five unable to read simple paragraphs in Tamil (the local language). Classroom structure, authoritarian teachers, and a teaching-learning methodology that stresses rote memorization instead of constructive learning are the root causes of the problem. To demonstrate change is possible, the new school in Walodai is established as a model alternative program to provide quality education to children from rural and low income backgrounds.

    To support this model, the program required space to allow freedom, exploration and confidence building among students. Design parameters informed by local and global case studies established the crucial role of transition zones–alongside structured program spaces–to support spontaneous activity and interactive learning.

    Additionally, the design of the school borrows sustainable ideas from local village school types where the veranda is both a spontaneous activity zone and thermal buffer given the hot and humid climate.

    The design and constructon team were frugal with resources. When conventional reinforced concrete roof slab proved cost prohibitive, a double-roof of lightweight cement and corrugated tin achieved significant cost savings. A change in brick bond pattern reduced quantities by 2/3rd. Pergolas, recycled from wood packing crates, were obtained for free.

    Juror Comments:

    So refreshing to see a project that genuinely wins my mind/heart that epitomized ‘resourcefulness’ across the board. This is not just a design issue; this is a cultural/human issue. And for that, I am won over. Additionally, I appreciated the calm use of 2 axis in this particular case The stage opening up to the 2 ‘hall’ intersection, off-set by the office spaced on the other side of the open corridor was a thoughtful commitment to seeing opportunities in honest relationships. Every time I come back to this project I find myself believing in the power of simple solutions. Better stated, I deeply appreciate when solutions honor vital contexts. This is definitely my ’surprise’ and ‘feel good’ project this summer without downplaying the technical/engineering and sustainable elements that are also in play here, too. — Christian Long

    Simply beautiful. There’s a grouping of schools in this year’s submittals that should be awarded on educational mission alone, and this one is a leader in the pack. Oftentimes, buildings are decribed in terms of economy, usually referring to budget. This school provides so many lessons in economy of design. Every material works hard to carry it’s value. If a building could be a haiku, this would be one. — Peter Brown

    I like the way it is made to the children’s scale. I love the black painted walls for the children to write on, and the open classrooms. It also sound like the school building is an important building for the community ( ex. the new technology they use in the construction. — Ulla Kjaervang

    Clearly a “can do” team making exciting and perhaps transformative solutions with the minimum of resources. A lesson for those who claim modest budgets excuse mediocre outcomes. — Ron Bogle

    I love its size and simplicity and connection to place and the environment. –Susan Wolff

    Doesn’t it give us all reason to pause and reflect on perceptions of what is needed for quality learning? It has the vitality of making great things happen and does it ever speak loudly about being resourceful. — Bobbie Hill


    WALLS TRANSFORMING: Polaris K-12 School

    I love the re-imagination of the space. I love the color. I love the changeable mountings for student work. I want to teach there, and I want to learn there. This feels like the learning pedagogy and the spaces are very much in line. Wonderful design. – Chris Lehmann

    Location: Anchorage, Alaska
    Designer: McCool Carlson Green Architects
    Program: Alternative Option School, Grades K-12
    Capacity: 500
    Completion: 2005


    Picture an old movie theater transformed into a high-energy K-12 educational environment, Envision a space celebrating the school philosophy of cross-grade learning, student-to-student mentorship, and community engagement within a socially related learning context. Imagine a renovated facility that encourages students to literally paint the walls, creating an evolving expression of the individual and collective values of the community.

    Thirteen years ago, the school program was born out of a need to provide an alternative to a traditional educational format, using an optional method of instruction. Housed in an old theater in a former wetlands area, site and size constraints were not viewed as insurmountable. Rather, the community focus was directed towards the educational program that was taking place within the old theater’s walls. Over the years the multi-age open optional program flourished, both within and out into the habitat, the surrounding community and the nation as a whole. Its dramatic success prompted support for a major addition and remodel project on a unique and challenging site, bounded by a major freeway, an arterial collector and industrial properties.

    The responsibility and commitment of the self-directed learners is reflected within the design of the new building. With a program based on self-directed and active learning, student ideas, projects, and real life choices are evident throughout the facility. Interior and exterior panels are designed for student murals that allow students to literally paint their school, and reveal the thoughts and attitudes of the student body. Designed to be easily replaceable, the school can retain the interior panels year to year or let students take them when they go. In that way, this important practice can be sustained over the life of the school. Honoring this unique medium of expression ultimately communicates a compelling catalogue of place and memory over time.

    Juror Comments:

    I’m really drawn into this project because of the commitment the educators/community have made to letting their students ‘leave their mark’ on the school — figuratively and literally. They are openly planning on the facade of the building changing as successive graduating classes paint elements of the exterior. What a statement and investment in young people! Well done to educators and designers alike on this one. — Christian Long

    This project starts form a singular and challenging situation: transforming and expanding an existing old movie theater with enough courage and sensitiveness to celebrate student ingenuity and voice. Sharing the planning process between the educational authorities and the community ones is a neat success everywhere, every time, everyplace. — Pablo Campos

    I like this project — not only educationally, but also because of the initial reuse of the movie theater. — John Weekes

    I think this is a well executed re-use turned into a school. I actually like the idea of the kids personalizing the building over time. I think that will ad an incredible richness. — Tim Dufault

    What strikes me about this project is the range and depth of comments it has generated. I am always taken with multi-age/grade grouping and active learning. They have created a learning environment that can be modified easily. It speaks to what can happen when the community works together to demonstrate their respect of their students. — Susan Wolff


    SCHOOL WITHOUT HALLWAYS: Marysville Getchell High School

    We can’t say enough about the power of a clear vision for learning to create a firm foundation for good school design. – Jeff Lackney

    Location: Marysville, Washington
    Designer: DLR (WA, US)
    Program: High School, Grades 9-12
    Capacity: 1,600
    Completion: 2010/2011


    Moving beyond traditional departmental and even hybrid departmental/interdisciplinary planning models, this high school project takes a stand as a pure model for autonomous small schools within a school. With this clear conviction, it has a fighting chance of holding its own against the gravity of departmental organization, a pull often experienced as school organizations make change structural changes in the way education is delivered.

    Together with programming and planning specialists, staff, and community members, the district developed a set of five Guiding Principles,detailing values and concepts central to student success: 1. Relationships at the Center; 2. Focused Learning; 3. Identity & Purpose; 4. Community; and 5. Accountability.

    Most dramatically, the process of creating these principles—and applying them to this high school project—allowed the district to leave behind traditional concepts of educational delivery and determine essential learning styles. From this foundation, an entirely new educational program was formed, planned around interest-based small learning communities (SLC). This campus is the first in the community to be built in alignment with these principles to exhibit their exciting qualities.

    In responding to the planning brief, the design team eliminated traditional halways to envision a school ultimate in flexibility to accommodate curriculum changes. The school is planned for learning to take place in every space, indoors and out. The school is truly a part of its landscape and of its community, and fucuses entirely on student potential and learning.

    Working collaboratively with a community-based planning team–comprised of diverse interests, expertise and backgrounds–allowed the project team to critically reexamine the fundamental principles of educational environments. What results is an innovative, flexible architectural program and design focused entirely on modern student learning. The project exhibits a bold and innovative step in an innovative direction for this district–and for our education system as a whole.

    Juror Comments:

    This project is a great example of the work that occurs when clear educational vision is combined with great planning and design. The SLC learning clusters provide variety in space types and the design showcases an active campus–students engaged in learning. I can’t wait to see this project completed. – Peter Brown

    This project has many great features. Like the no-corridor model, Like the floor connections to create an integrated SLC - see interior perspective showing links of floors AND outdoor space. What creates order in this project are the Guiding Principles of Relationships at the Center, Focused Learning, Identity and Purpose, Community and Accountability, and the focus on SLCs as the organizing principle of the academies. I’d like to see this building when it is occupied. — Jeff Lackney

    Project is the result of a progressive client and a responsive architect. Even the names of the various learning centers reflect a forward-thinking mindset: “learning retreat” “school for the entrepreneur”… I’m particularly impressed with the consistent design of flexible, multiple use spaces, the size and number of commons areas, and the extensive spaces available to the community. – Judy Marks

    I especially like the scale of the facilities both in relationship to the outside woodsy/green areas and the inside commons. — Bobbie Hill

    I liked this a lot - the PROCESSES, the philosopohy… the students being designedly valued and inspired to perform at their highest potential. A brave response to the educational program–the layout is designed for learning- and Iabout designming for learning….and it has sea views! — Stephen Heppell

    I really appreciate this one. I really appreciate the courtyards and the relationship between the buildings and the outdoor space. There is a wonderful intimacy in those spaces and look like great places to get together in small groups. — Tim Dufault


    HUB OF CUSTOMIZATION: Desjardins Information Hub

    …The intersection of knowledge and learning centers works well here. The space brings together many services with such simple connection and clarity…One can sense that the brief for the project had a very clear focus and that the community were united in their sense of purpose. To me this is evident in the design solution…A great little project. – Jeff Phillips

    Location: Shawinigan, Canada
    Designer: Michel Gagnon
    Program: College/University – Library/Media
    Completion: 2004


    The Information Hub is a dynamic learning environment for both students and staff at this college campus. The re-envisioned program for the campus-wide library knits together together various services to create a synergy relationship among library sevices, guidance and careers, Help Center, teacher activities, and development. Each component has the same purpose: to contribute to student success by enhancing personal development, mutual respect, commitment and support.

    Successful integration of information technology was a key driver of the projectThe Information Hub is an evolutionary, adaptable environment at the leading edge of technology. Work areas, organized to create a variety of surroundings, allow users the opportunity to align workspace with specific task. Techincal and informational resources are co-located with documenting services to provide convenient access to resources by students and faculty. The presence of a media studio as well as a wireless network permits development of skills and access to information. Here, information technology plays a decisive role in supporting teaching and learning.

    Through its redevelopment, the Information Hub is the central place for exchanging and acquiring knowledge.

    Juror Comments:

    The openness and flexibility of this area–in addition to the multiple learning processes and activities that can take place in these spaces–speaks to many of us who advocate for a “user determined” learning area. — Susan Wolff

    I like the openess and intesection of program elements. while they lend themselves to the spacial and functional relationships conveyed in the pictures it would have been easy to “box’ them up. Here is a question for K-12 projects. Wouldn’t this make for a great small high school? what appeals to me is the student centeredness of the place. — John Weekes

    This project will will have a large impact on a wide range of stakeholders who discover it…and it will open up the doors of possibilities for many — from the name of the space to the overall aesthetic to the student/user-driven space design. – Christian Long


    COURAGEOUS DESIGN: The Calhoun School

    Location: New York, NY
    Designer: FXFowle Architects
    Program: Independent School, Grades PK-12
    Capacity: 700
    Completion: 2004

    This gets an award just for guts!…A technical triumph: the axonometric says it all. Beyond that: The Green Roof Learning Center looks like it meets the mark. Program areas such as the Performing Arts Center look like remarkable finds in a tightly packed high-rise. Not a project for the faint hearted! A seemingly simple planning solution to a technically challenged and highly constrained problem. – Frank Locker


    A proponent of Progressive Education, the School attends to the intellectual, emotional, and social growth of its students as individuals and as members of a larger society. The School is dedicated to preserving these values, and to the strong scientific evidence that children learn best through active, experiential learning.

    Developed after a comprehensive master plan and feasibility study, the architect’s design for this prestigious school on Manhattan’s Upper West Side adds four stories and a mezzanine level to the existing building and fills in the building footprint. The design, which results in an additional 30,500 square feet of space, resolves the formal and programmatic challenges entailed in expanding vertically and horizontally to the 1973 concrete and travertine building.

    The school is the first educational institution in New York City to design an eco-friendly green roof, which transformed a sterile roofing surface into a safe, multi-purpose oasis of fresh air and greenery for students, faculty, and community at large. While adding some cost to the expansion–as compared to a utilitarian membrane roof–when considered as program space, the roof is actually the least expensive educational space built during the project. The rewards are many, inspiring a broad range of curricular applications.

    Since its opening, the roof has been used by teachers for environmental and plant biology studies as well as for units in math (geometry). Next year, there will be an astronomy elective for students, who will be able to use the roof as their “observation deck.” As anticipated, the lunch program has been a major beneficiary of our green roof herb garden, which is planted each spring as a joint project between Lower School classes and our food service chefs — who frequently visit classrooms and conduct after-school clubs to promote nutrition and healthy eating habits. The green roof has also been the site of an outdoor art installation, a source of inspiration for poetry classes, and a favorite escape from urban life.

    Juror Comments:

    This uncommon project scheme faces the challenge of adapting & vertically expanding l an existing building. The complexity of the architectural solution is conditioned by the need of designing an existing structure and filling it with a dense educational program. The Green-roof embodies nevertheless an interesting innovative idea: understanding some architectural elements as “learning spaces” on their own; hence, adding to Architecture the possibility of being educational. – Pablo Camp

    Heroic Project. We’ve all worked in urban environments, and understand the complexity of contraints in this arena. This project succeeds on many fronts including the most important one: It’s built. — Peter Brown

    This is worthy of note. While not an architectural masterpiece the fact that it re-uses an exisiting building, grapples with difficult existing conditions, made better the original, all surfaces were used and the fact is was built is commendable. — John Weekes

    It IS amazing what they have done!! I certainly admire their efforts heaps. As Peter says, heroic. — Stephen Heppell.

    I think it’s an ambitious place for learning. “The green roof” is an innovation in the architecture for learning. — Ana Ines Bajcura

    Nice learning areas, especially the theater is great. In terms of a school in the city it is a nice way to make a green spot for the student. — Ulla Kjaervang

    Where else have you seen floor to ceiling glass in a Science lab? The green roof as a is its major benefit: a secure place right at hand that is a learning place for everything from science to performing arts. I’ll bet that more memorable learning happens here than on any of the floors below. — Frank Locker


    A NOTION OF HOLISTIC LEARNING: Galilee Catholic Learning Community

    The work of the Education and Building Group is fascinating and what every community should do when engaged in designing a school. I suspect we could learn much from their process. – Ron Bogle

    Aldinga SA, Australia
    Designer: Russell & Yelland Architects
    Program: Elementary School, Grades K-5
    Capacity: 100
    Completion: 2006


    Developing an educational brief for a new learning community was an exciting challenge for the school’s Education and Building Group. For each member, the notion of creating a new place for learning was a nerve-wracking exercise. The key question became: How do you determine spaces that support learning, well-being and allow future opportunities? The overall vision was clear: to create an integrated community of faith, learning, family and friendships. With a dream to be a place of lifelong learning to all families, It was also clear that the learning component would need to be integral in the total vision.

    Defining the learner gave the group a foundation for its initial deliberations. The group moved forward with two overarching understandings;
    1) that learners are competent, critical, active, and social beings who constantly produce change through dynamic movement among each other and within the environment, and
    2) that learner competency and motivation can be enhanced or inhibited by the setting.

    Members were influenced by Reggio Emilia: the environment is unequivocally seen as a third teacher. Physical space is a language of its own and a strong conditioning factor in communicating culture and values. Flexibility in the design of the physical space help teachers and learners fully explore holistic education and encourage evolution of ideas.

    Breaking open the notion of holistic learning led to an exploration of the challenges inherent in the use of one defined space as the learning classroom. Every aspect of this building needed to be a metaphor for the broader vision of community within community to meet the needs of young people today and into the future. Since its opening, the staff has commented on the way the spaces promote calm, encourage discovery, and allow children to explore their environment.

    Juror Comments:

    This project strikes me as the reduction of elements. — Judy Marks

    The narrative describes a vision well beyond bricks and mortar. Given the constraints of a small construction budget, soul-less site and staggered building program, this project is a very successful footprint to the future. Interiors are bright, simply furnished and the indoor - outdoor visually connection is quite engaging. I see it as a very inhabitable and something of which the community will become quite proud. — Jeff Phillips

    Charming little building, accomplishes much with modest means. — Peter Brown

    I like this one. I think it does a great job of celebrating its context. I love the way the small learning spaces frame the views to the hills beyond. I think the use of color is appropriate and, over time, the students will add their own color. — Tim Dufault

    I like this project. It’s simplicity. The project has a clear floor plan. Is open to the outstanding areas and flexible in the interior. The scale and the quality of the spaces are correct. – Ana Ines Bajcura

    I find this space charming as well. The minimalist nature of the design is peaceful and calming and a place where I think students would be very comfortable. — Bobbie Hill

    I think it’s minimalist characteristics are appealing. Looking carefully you can imagine that over time the students could take this place over with their imprint. The inside/outside connection, framed views, natural light makes one think of Scandinavia. — John Weekes


    A CHILD’S SPIRIT: Harris Family Children’s Center

    Well I just plain liked this - a lot. It has a culture to it, a sense that it respects the children’s learning - i like the way it flows and meanders - it is a long way from a factory school and I can really imagine the sense of belonging and of aspiration. Now of course, I’m hungry now to see it filled with children and their work. – Stephen Heppell

    Location: Exeter, New Hampshire
    Designer: Bargmann Hendrie + Archetype, Inc.
    Program: Early Childhood Education
    Capacity: 58
    Completion: 2006


    The design of the Children’s Center was a collaborative project–educators and architects working closely together–to create an environment that supports the schools mission. The team explored ideas about the learning environment to teach appreciation of arts and sciences, to allow opportunities for exploration and experimentation, and to create a close connection to the environment.

    Serving a wide age range of students from 6 weeks through 5 years ,the design of the building was intended to be highly functional and adaptable. The school offers after school care for elementary school age children. During the summer months, the building expands to accommodate an additional 40 summer campers.

    The team desired to create an environment that was esthetically pleasing to children and adults alike. With this in mind, the center provides comfortable alternative areas where parents can spend time with their children when visiting during the course of the day. In addition to the spacious classrooms, common areas are incorporated for children to explore, collaborate, and engage in multi-sensorial experiences. One of the children’s favorite areas is the Harkness Conservatory modeled after the Italian Atelier.

    Natural light fills the spaces and the design creates a direct correlation between the interior and the exterior of the building. Windows are positioned low enough for young children to observe the passing of time and the change of seasons. Upon entering the building, one can peer through a huge wall of windows that looks out over the great lawn and the river beyond.

    From a pedagogical perspective, the environment plays a vital role in the education of young children and is an essential constituent in providing high quality early childhood education. The design of this facility reflects the philosophy of Loris Malaguzzi and the Reggio Emilia Schools in Italy.

    Juror Comments:

    1) Beautiful, inviting, captivating! 2) The porch won me over alone. What a delightful space for little ones to feel the fresh air, fall asleep, play, be read to, etc. 3) Talk about a very modern/clean European feel, and yet here it is in an East Coast (US) private school setting. This seems more like a school that could be found in Finland or Denmark. Love all the clean white walls with the modern wooden furniture. Great aesthetic. 4) Truly appreciate the kid-scale entries to the kitchen unit and the primary classroom. Both allow the kiddos to see (adults, too). The Reggio influence/effect is wonderful and worth studying in much more detail! I have a great deal of respect for this project. — Christian Long

    A well-designed space, open and full of light, on a beautiful site. In fact, it exudes “HOME” The footprint is very straight forward, but the spaces inside, with some curved walls, some small & intimate rooms, some high and open rooms, are quite brilliant. Great choice of interior finishes. — Judy Marks

    I agree there are many lessons to be learned from this project. I can only imagine what it will look like after a couple of years of use. The porch is a wonderful space. I think the most important “transferable” aspect of this project is the focus on the Reggio Emelia philosophy. Public schools could learn much from this, if they are willing to listen. — Tim Dufault



    1. Introduction
    2. Summary of 2007 Program
    3. 2007 Patterns of Innovation
    4. 2007 Honor Awards – Full Description
    5. 2007 Merit Awards – Full Description
    6. 2007 Citation Awards – List only
    7. 2007 Recognized Value Awards – List only
    8. Jury Team
    9. 2007 Jury Conversation #1


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