2019—Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy

DeSoto ISD—Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy
Architect: Perkins+Will

Due to the appeal of alternative educational options and a prolonged lack of growth in District class sizes, a set of project goals were established to focus on enhancing enrollment and driving daily attendance. From those goals, an elementary school program was established that would offer its students access to technology-based educational opportunities and expose them to science, tech, engineering, math and outdoor learning, proactively setting them up for success in fast-growing industries.


Complementing the activities within, the school’s design features have roots in technology, media, and communication. The outer shell of the classrooms feature a rigid yet playful binary code window pattern, and the inner incubation core of spaces are surrounded in colorful, organic forms to create a nurturing learning environment. Exterior courtyards allow daylight and the natural environment to infiltrate the technology-rich school with exposed systems for student observation and curiosity.


True value is measured by the impact of a built environment on future generations of learners for years to come. To think differently about how this school could add value, we looked at the impact on student pride, social/emotional learning, health & wellness, and creating curiosity in young learners. In addition, this compact, 2-story building provides daylight, has minimal impact on the site, consumes less energy & water than baseline benchmarks, & exceeds indoor air quality standards.

Sustainability—Star of DistinctionSustainability

Several large exterior courtyards are carved out of the dense floor plate to create indoor/outdoor connections at every turn. Surrounding spaces provide daylight, views, and thermal comfort to link students to the natural environment. With material health in mind, the design team performed rigorous reviews of all specified materials for human and environmental impact. In addition, resiliency threats, water use, and energy use were all evaluated and addressed through detailed assessments.


Sitting within the City’s park master plan, the facility has adjacency to a variety of uses and provides a true community hub for area residents. With community use in mind, the facility includes a multi-purpose community room with separate entry for after-hours functions. The school’s editable, scrolling ticker at the main entry is used to communicate to the students and community members. Support from the community stakeholders was apparent throughout from design to the final ribbon-cutting.

Planning—Star of DistinctionPlanning

To avoid the compartmentalized student experience commonly found in elementary education, innovative planning strategies placed the media center at the heart of the school. Flexible grade-level collaboration zones link the classroom corridors with the media center & outdoor environments so the students experience these unique program spaces throughout their daily journeys. Each grade level follows a colorful wayfinding path that guides students to their respective classrooms & collaboration zone.

Transformation—Star of DistinctionSchool Transformation

With early exposure to STEM principles in mind, the 109,500 SF facility utilizes every square foot to stimulate student engagement and create opportunities to inspire curiosity. The 2-story, interactive wall graphic within the school’s main corridor features content of space exploration, math, and science and includes editable QR codes for curriculum flexibility. Other features include intimate tutor rooms, colorful reading nooks and an interactive lighting installation within the media center.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner