Victor, Idaho-based Section Eight Design  beat out seven other finalists to win the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom , spearheaded by the Open Architecture Network. Section Eight partnered with Teton Valley Community School (TVCS) in Victor to design the classroom of the future . Currently based out of a remodeled house, students at Teton Valley Community School are now one step closer to getting a real classroom.
TVCS’s master plan is to eventually build five of the proposed classroom buildings. The design allows for flexibility in spacing and construction. The classroom buildings can be either site-built or prefabricated in two modules that can be shipped to the site. The design objectives were to create flexible spatial configurations, reduce the school’s ecological footprint, and create a strong connection to the outdoors in response to the mountain climate.
As the campus develops, the spaces in between buildings allows for more infill. There are a series of pods that can be plugged in to provide additional programmatic elements shared between classroom buildings. The connector pods can be used as art studios, science labs, small libraries, or staging areas for outdoor plays and performances. As the school grows and the classroom buildings are built, there is a level of excitement about the additions of new structures and how they will positively impact the adjacent buildings. The buildings complete each other thru their dynamic relationships.
Each classroom configuration and relationship to its neighbor varies depending on the age of the child. The goal is to create connections between grades even though the classrooms are separate. Creating a sense of connectivity and unification is imperative to the function of the campus and the mission of the school. Spaces of encounter are explored between each of the individual indoor and outdoor classrooms. There is a bridge element that connects all the classroom’s loft spaces. This bridge is important because as it is a physical manifestation of connectivity between students.
Students enter through an entry vestibule used as locker space, which will help to control heat loss during the cold and snowy winter months. The open flex learning space is flanked by strawbale walls that serve as a backdrop for computer stations, storage, library, and collapsible and foldable partitions. Opposite, there is pin-up and projector screen space. A small science lab area is located at the north with tables that fold down to reveal glimpses into the mechanical room. The south side of the classroom has an attached greenhouse space and a thermal mass wall to aid in passive heating of the space. The greenhouse also serves as a threshold to the outdoor classroom. Water will be collected and stored beneath the greenhouse for irrigation of the outdoor classrooms and the greenhouse, as well as graywater for flushing toilets.
Although the valley receives up to 600” of snow in the winter months, the children at the school are very drawn to the outdoors for learning and playing. Each outdoor classroom is specific to an indoor classroom allowing all grades to take ownership of their own outdoor area. Interactivity is encouraged by the presence of a series of movable and connectable wood panel modules. The panels can be easily moved and configured by the students, encouraging them to design and organize the exterior space themselves. The outdoor area provides fences that act as barriers in some areas to create smaller learning spaces, and also bench areas for interaction between grades. Although barriers meander through the outdoor classrooms, these spaces overlap to express the idea of a shared community, cooperation, and tolerance.
More on the winning entry at: http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/projects/3991