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AIA Honors 9 School Designs that Rock

Friday, August 28, 2015

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From Boston to Phoenix, nine education facilities across the U.S. have achieved “top of the class” status in terms of excellence in architecture, according to the American Institute of Architects.

AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) has selected the projects for the 2015 CAE Education Facility Design Awards.

The winning projects serve as examples of superb places in which to learn, further the clients’ missions, goals and educational programs while demonstrating excellence in architectural design, according to the AIA.

AIA design descriptions of the award winners appear below.

Berklee Tower | Berklee College of Music; Boston
Award of Excellence
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.

Berklee Tower

All photos courtesy of AIA / photographer noted / ©Bruce T. Martin

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.

Health Sciences Education Building (HSEB), University of Arizona & Northern
Arizona University; Phoenix
Award of Excellence
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.


©Bill Timmerman

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.

University Center, The New School; New York City
Award of Excellence
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP with SLCE Architects

This new multipurpose facility is described as 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.

The New School

©James Ewing

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.

Vashon Island High School; Vashon Island, WA
Award of Excellence
Integrus Architecture

Located on a small island in Puget Sound, the project 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.

Vashon High School

©Lara Swimmer

Shared areas are located adjacent to more formal teaching spaces, while a learning commons area extends to the library. A small group presentation room is perched within the commons and a central courtyard provides sheltered outdoor learning areas.

Carl Sandburg Elementary School; Kirkland, WA
Award of Merit

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 three or four classrooms. Each neighborhood is organized around an open shared learning area, small group rooms, and teacher planning areas.

Carl Sandburg

©Ben Benschneider

Transparency between spaces expands the classroom, allowing small and large group activities to occur in the adjacent shared areas.

Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons, Georgia Institute of Technology; Atlanta
Award of Merit
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

©Paul Wharchol Photography

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.

Reed College Performing Arts Building; Portland, OR
Award of Merit
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.

Reed College

©Christian Columbres

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 also functions as the public front door to the campus. All performance and teaching spaces open to the three-level, light-filled, arts atrium merging informal and formal learning.

e3 Civic High School; San Diego
Walter Taylor Award
LPA Inc.

To encourage movement throughout e3 Civic High School, every space has multiple functions to give purpose and attract multiple users.


©Costea Photography Inc.

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.

Nueva School at Bay Meadows; San Mateo, CA
Shirley Cooper Award
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.

Nueva School

©Kyle Jeffers

Adaptively reusing space at a former horse racing venue, the school is an integral new part of its budding community.

The Jury and Committee

The jury for the 2015 Educational Facility Design Awards consisted of 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.

AIA’s Committee on Architecture for Education is a group of architects and allied professionals concerned with the quality and design of educational, cultural, and recreational facilities.

CAE identifies national educational facility issues critical to architects and works to strengthen relationships with allied organizations, client groups, and the public, according to AIA.


Tagged categories: American Institute of Architects (AIA); Architects; Architecture; Awards and honors; Color + Design; Design; Education; North America

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