Seattle’s first vertically-oriented middle school breaks ground

The building will provide 74,289 sf of space across its five-story classroom bar.

May 01, 2017 |

Rendering courtesy LMN Architects

It may not rise to the heights of the 30-story school building made famous in the Wayside School children’s books, but the new Cardinal Union building will be Seattle’s first vertically-oriented middle school once it completes in 2018.

Cardinal Union, designed by LMN Architects, will be the new home for the middle school at the Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS). The structure is being built in the Capitol Hill neighborhood and will provide spatial flexibility, contemporary classrooms, and purpose-built science labs across its 74,289 sf floor plan.

A five-story classroom bar will relate in scale to the mixed-use commercial and residential core along the Union and Madison Street arterials, while a gymnasium building will mirror the smaller neighborhood context located along 13th Avenue. A rooftop playfield will cap the gym and another outdoor area will be located at the building’s main entry to provide a space for students to gather and collaborate.


Rendering courtesy LMN Architects.


Reminiscent of its fictitious Wayside counterpart, each floor of the new Cardinal Union building will accommodate one grade. The classrooms will be organized around flexible community learning spaces. Theses learning spaces will be a series of double-height, stepped interior volumes that encourage physical and visual connectivity.

The exterior of the building will feature a combination of gray and cream bricks that will fade from dark to light vertically along the façade. Red metal sunshades will add color to the design and expanses of glass will reveal the student activity occurring within.


Rendering courtesy LMN Architects.


Sustainability is also paramount to the building’s design. Building analysis modeling was used to optimize daylight, solar exposure, and natural ventilation. Natural ventilation strategies, a highly efficient mechanical system, and a high performance envelope result in a projected 45% reduction in annual carbon emissions when compared to similar buildings. A solar panel array will be incorporated on the main building roof and a future-compatible rainwater collection system is also included into the building design. Web-based dashboards will provide instantaneous feedback to students and faculty on solar production, building performance, and water conservation.

Build Team: GLY Construction (general contractor), Swift Company (landscape architect), PAE Engineers (MEP).


Rendering courtesy LMN Architects.

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