Schools of the 21st Century
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Carl Sandburg Elementary School

NAC | Architecture

Kirkland, Washington

By Lamar Anderson

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Program: A two-story, 66,580-square-foot public elementary school for 600 students. The building, which replaces a roughly 40-year-old school on the same site, consists of a steel-structure classroom wing with a library and office, along with a concrete structure housing a gymnasium and multipurpose performance space.

Design concept and solution: After four decades in an inward-focused building with little outdoor communal space, Carl Sandburg Elementary wanted an extroverted building with a strong connection to the landscape. To keep the school open during construction, the architects sited the new structure north of the old. They wrapped the two wings around a grove of big-leaf maple trees, and deferred to the grove’s shape by angling the classroom wing away from it. The NAC team clad the building with a combination of concrete masonry units and prefinished steel siding. To emphasize the school’s environmental focus, they mounted solar panels on a galvanized steel frame affixed to the glazed facade; the panels double as shades for the computer lab inside. The architects divided the academic wing into neighborhoods of three or four classrooms. Each neighborhood is anchored by a central communal classroom with glass walls and doors, which gives teachers the flexibility to observe several groups of students at once. The classrooms open onto patios and other outdoor learning areas near the maple grove. For the interior materials the team chose a natural palette. They defined the main public areas with a textured fir-panel ceiling, which extends from the commons to the library, and set off the corridors’ dark gray carpet and polished concrete with warm finishes such as stained-MDF wall panels. In addition to the solar panels, the school’s sustainable features include geothermal heat pumps, daylight-responsive lighting, and a rain garden.

Completion Date: September 2012

Gross square footage: 66,580 gross square feet

Total construction cost: $21,720,911

2025 First Avenue Suite 300
Seattle, WA 98121
Phone: 206-441-4522
Fax: 206-441-7917

January 2014
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