2018—Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School

Fort Worth ISD—Van Zandt-Guinn Elementary School
Architect: Perkins+Will

The replacement elementary school for this urban school district consolidated 2 neighborhood schools. Through a series of community meetings the school district elected to build the replacement school adjacent to an underground school built in the ‘70s. The new school was designed to prepare all students for success in college, career, and community leadership and was sited to maximize daylight, capture views of downtown, connect with the outdoors, and create a new identity for the community.


The new school was strategically located to allow the existing underground building to be operational during construction & to maximize light & views into all learning spaces. An outdoor courtyard brings light into the heart of the school & provides a safe outdoor space to learn. An outdoor amphitheater & community lawn are available for neighborhood use. The media center is oriented towards downtown, creating a connection back to the community & encouraging students to look towards the future.


Facility assessment indicated a cost of $10 million to renovate the existing building; cost of new construction was $14 million. The new facility better aligns with the educational mission of the district. Extended hours are provided to accommodate working parent schedules & only part of the building remains operational for extended use. The gym has a dedicated stage for performances & community use. Durable, low maintenance materials were used, especially important in an urban school setting.


Consolidated two elementary schools into one 650 student elementary. Building orientation maximized north & south light into the building. Energy efficient features: cool roof, efficient glazing & high efficient light & plumbing fixtures. Locally sourced, durable materials: recycled content in concrete & interior materials; use of low VOC paint, flooring, ceiling, & adhesives for indoor air quality. Community gardens, stairs, circulation & windows designed to increase overall health of students.


Consolidation of two elementary schools through community outreach & support. Extended school hours adapted for low-income, working families – open early & late with the option to have all 3 meals served to students. Outdoor amphitheater & lawn available for community use & gathering space at all times. The building orientation to downtown responds to the context of downtown & surrounding neighborhoods. Color & graphics communicate history of the school & create student pride.

Planning—Star of DistinctionPlanning

Site: 4.7 acres total, 1.75 acres buildable area – required creative stacking of spaces. With a power easement running through the middle of the site, the design team had to be creative to determine how to build around it, leaving a small buildable area, meaning phasing would be required. The media center is located on the 2nd level & oriented towards downtown so that students get a glimpse of their future and potential. Maximum daylight used in every classroom & community space.

School Transformation

The before and after transformation encourages pride and joy in learning – from an underground school with no daylight & maintenance issues to an above-ground facility filled with natural light in every space. The design encourages mastery of primary skills through hands-on learning via art & science outdoor learning labs & community gardens. Beyond classroom learning, the school provides a full student experience, offering 3 meals a day & extended hours for working families.


Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner