2016—Alvarado Junior High School

Alvarado ISD—Alvarado Junior High School
Architect: Huckabee

The school is a compact facility that was designed to transform the traditional learning model. It features learning neighborhoods; a 2-story media center, presentation room and workroom; thoughtfully placed fine arts and athletics; outdoor learning courtyards and a rooftop deck; and a footprint that allows the district to expand in the future. The school is the centerpiece of a multi-functional campus, sharing its site with a competition stadium and multi-use facility.


The master planned site and design of the school focused on creating a local destination; the facility’s proximity to the district stadium and central location within the town made it a primary location for community gatherings. Placement of parking lots, athletic facilities and communal spaces complemented the location of the stadium. Shared amenities such as the large cafeteria (adjacent to a commons and the gymnasium) created space for athletics, fine arts and community events.


The design was highly influenced by the clients desire to create a new standard for educational delivery. The facility enhances the traditional learning model, focusing on collaboration and flexibility inside and outside of the classroom. Glass, metal and masonry set the stage for a professional environment similar to the collegiate and career experience. Windows and clerestories are prominently used in each space, providing interior and exterior views and promoting learning on display.


Before planning started, the client anticipated they would take a traditional approach to learning. Throughout design team-led visioning sessions, they realized their desire to evolve current pedagogies and design a facility for the 21st century learner. Their strategy shifted, and the design team co-created a hybrid solution that helped the district focus on providing choices and flexibility while also taking their first step forward in a district-wide transformative process.


The compact, 2-story design creates an energy-efficient building. Sited to face north, the orientation provides daylighting while shading devices minimize glare and heat gain. Store front and clerestory windows are used in most spaces, providing interior and exterior views. A combination of masonry, ceramic tile and terrazzo add visual appeal and durability. Four outdoor learning courtyards connect students to the natural environment.


The team delivered a highly innovative facility for $2 million under budget by utilizing the existing site, maximizing the available footprint, selecting durable and attractive materials and minimizing redundancies in the program. The structure uses large amounts of load-bearing masonry, a cost effective approach that is durable and easy to maintain. Each area was designed for choice and flexibility, allowing educators, students and the public to maximize space for a variety of uses.

School Transformation

The facility sets a new standard for educational delivery within the district, serving as a template for future design programs. Design elements were inspired by collegiate and professional environments, incorporating concepts such as a “Genius Bar” and presentation rooms to provide students with opportunities to explore and exchange ideas and solutions. Flexible classrooms and adjacent living rooms combine formal and informal spaces for teacher-as-facilitator and break-out collaboration.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner