How can school design foster developmentally appropriate social independence in secondary school students, ensuring they are inspired to take initiative for their own learning and to think beyond themselves? even as they become citizens of the world?
The French American International School (FAIS) has started to think about these questions by planning to replace its 20-year-old modular classrooms with permanent structures. At the time, middle school students were educated in scattered, modular buildings with outdoor circulation in a rainy climate and no dry, temperate social spaces to congregate, learn informally, or discover independent students, leading FAIS to choose the new college as their first priority project.
FAIS has set bold sustainability and resilience goals for the college and the rest of its campus plan. Their pedagogy is multilingual and internationally focused, and their aim is to prepare the next generation of global leaders and creative thinkers; it has also been heavily influenced by the adjacent forest and the wealth of hands-on learning opportunities in the habitats, ecosystems and life cycles that students can observe there.
The design solution was inspired by nurse logs downstream of the site, the decaying mass of which serves as a nutrient substrate for a diversity of native forest seedlings. Our vision for the project was born from this fecundity: to create a habitat for middle school students that would nourish their hearts, minds and bodies, work in community with their teachers and challenge them to find their own inspiration and independence.
The design concept brings these program spaces together to create “cabins in the woods”, another design concept inspired by the forest setting: fourteen classrooms, five teacher pods and administrative offices. Whether indoors or outdoors, all four walls of each cabin are clad in wood, bringing the forest through the building and blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors. These cabins are arranged in a boomerang shape that follows the topography of the site then unite under a roof whose sculptural form frames the view of the forest beyond. along the Forest Wing and community activity along the Campus Wing A bustling, single-loaded hallway enables informal social learning with the Hub, a two-story central gathering space that anchors the entrance sequence and promotes orientation throughout the boomerang shape of the building. This configuration provides abundant daylight and connection to the landscape while simultaneously allowing cross ventilation to occur. naturally.
Pirate Design Team
Stefee Knudsen – Project Manager
David Keltner – Design Director
Sarah Post-Holmberg – Project Architect
Lewis Williams – Design Team
Architecture and Interiors: Hacker
Civil Engineer: Standridge
Structural engineer: Madden & Baughman
MEP engineer: PAE
Client: Franco-American International School
Photography: Bruce Damonte