2018—Southwest Legacy High School

Southwest ISD—Southwest Legacy High School
Architect: Pfluger Architects

2nd High School for District; focus on creating separate/strong school identity; CTE-integrated campus with a focus on STEM; shared site with middle school, designed and built concurrently;


The school’s layout draws from the fluid pedestrian circulation in shopping malls. Academic classrooms are in-fill stores among large anchor tenants like the library, auditorium and indoor-outdoor food court. A centralized lecture hall spills out across from the main stairs, where informal town halls take place, allowing the entire student body to congregate. Throughout the day students are learning on display and working, under supervision, while also advertising career programs to onlookers.


The high school was built concurrently on a shared site with a 1200-student middle school. Opportunities to maximize value include providing shared access and parking, streamlining building materials and systems selection, and benefitting during construction from reduced overhead costs. Inside the school, durability and integrity were emphasized, with sealed concrete floors, finished-plywood panels, and exposed ceiling systems used to avoid materials that hid the building’s construction.


The school celebrates bringing the outdoors in. Few schools in the district have secure outdoor space for activity; here, congregating and traveling between spaces within the gated courtyard is encouraged. Similarly, most schools in the district have no windows, particularly in teaching spaces. Here, every classroom has windows to the exterior or opening onto daylit common areas. Clerestories in these areas provide natural light throughout the day, reducing artificial light and energy use.

Community—Star of DistinctionCommunity

The school’s meandering, indoor-outdoor circulation path was likened to the nearby river, whose alluvial fields have sustained the local agrarian economy for centuries. Stylized historical markers throughout the school celebrate local heroes and place names, sharing the community’s long history with today’s students, and enriching the wayfinding experience throughout the school for visitors.

Planning—Star of DistinctionPlanning

The district wanted to distinguish this high school, the district’s second, from its original, one-size-fits-all, campus. A committee of community members and staff identified career programs to be duplicated, relocated, or newly created at the school, referencing local workforce data and student demand. These programs shape the school’s identity, rhetorically—through student participation—and literally, with CTE teaching spaces placed up front, highlighting career opportunities.

School Transformation

Emphasis is placed on engagement, encouraging the entire student body to be ‘part’ of something—an academic club, a career pathway, an athletic team, a fine arts program. The facility serves as a backdrop to activities. The robotic team drives a model car into the middle of school, near where students gather to hear a local dignitary speak. Outside, students play a game of pick up ball in the courtyard during lunch, and line up along the promenade to the fields to cheer before a game.


Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner