2017—West High School / Middle School

West ISD—West High School / Middle School
Architect: Huckabee

When one district lost three of its schools—following an explosion at a nearby fertilizer plant—they faced a decision to rebuild the same or embrace a new approach to instruction. The architectural team led them through a planning and design process that started with a temporary campus for their students and ended with a bold step into the future. The high school / middle school provides educational and economical value, supports an immersive learning culture and is a beacon for the community.


The design promotes choice—moving beyond a stand-and-deliver approach. Learning spaces foster self-directed, independent and individualized instruction. Classroom walls are movable and open into collaborative spill-out spaces with soft seating and charging stations. The environment supports a maker culture and cross-teaming between departments. The facility is designed for grades 6-8 and 9-12 with a capacity of 1,000 students. It adapts to a single secondary education campus as pedagogy evolves.


The district could not replace the schools they lost, as they were, at today’s dollars; it would require nearly triple the available funds. In response to the economic reality and to address educational needs, the concept of a dual-campus facility for middle and high schools took shape. The district could channel funds to a maximum number of students, improve utilization of shared spaces and design a 21st century learning environment. The community would also have a central location to gather.


Insulated Concrete Form was selected as the main structural wall component. It provides increased thermal mass, reduced utility costs, energy sustainability and is blast, wind and fire resistant with exceptional acoustic performance. Masonry and tile were used on the interior to create a beautiful aesthetic and life-cycle durability. Other selections include energy efficient HVAC, single-ply white roof, daylighting, LED lighting, terrazzo flooring, shading devices and native landscaping.


The high school / middle school is the heart of the community. It sits a mile from historic Main Street and is a place where local youth are nurtured into the leaders of tomorrow. The space is used frequently by the public. The choice to place the dining hall, student commons, performance hall and arena in the civic spine was intentional—in essence, creating a community center. Environmental graphics and school colors are found throughout. They are expressive, evoking a sense of place and pride.


Planning—Star of DistinctionAfter the explosion, the district had one operational campus; planning started immediately for a temporary campus and a new facility. The architectural team shepherded the district through the process and worked diligently to research requirements to secure disaster relief funding from local, state and federal entities. Visioning established learning goals focused on customization; planning resulted in a dual-campus solution. The civic spine emerged, and three distinct campuses took shape.

School Transformation

The architectural team delivered a facility beyond expectation, helping a community rise up. The high school / middle school is a source of pride and is an iconic symbol of community. The district took a bold step forward. Students learn and teach everywhere and have embraced “choice” in their instructional environment. STEM programs, and others, expanded. The STEM Lab and Learning Resource Center were catalysts for growth. The spaces took on a collegiate aesthetic with maker space.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner