Northwest ISD—V. R. Eaton High School
New comprehensive high school for 2500 students, with an attached Indoor Activity Center and athletic facilities (baseball field, softball field, tennis courts, two practice fields, and competition track). Within the school there are two academies with a curriculum focus; the Academy of Business Management and Entrepreneurship, and the Academy of Aeronautics and Aviation Sciences.
A traditional exterior reflects the community’s values and conveys a sense of permanence while the interior reflects the community’s 21st century project based learning priorities. A high level of district engagement in the planning and design process led to ownership among campus staff and students, who regularly lead tours of the building. The north plaza welcomes the public after school hours, providing a place to gather before and after performances, games, and other evening events.
Project – based learning concepts were applied to the large scale of a 2500-student campus. The traditional exterior is architecturally consistent with other schools in the district. Grassy lawns and courtyards give the campus a collegiate feel. The school’s interior reflects aspirations for students to learn in an interactive and collaborative environment. The business academy functions as an office within a school, blending classrooms, open plan workspaces, and an exhibition hall.
The team led several all-day workshops to receive input from staff at the district’s other high schools. Facilitators from the STEM academy helped plan successful spaces for project–based learning. Weekly design meetings followed to refine the design and give the district clarity and ownership in this new model. The design addresses needs for both security and transparency. The design team included corporate interior designers, recognizing the 21st Century link between schools and workplaces.
Light filled common and program spaces reduce artificial lighting and enhance student focus. Southern exposures are shaded by deep porticos. The campus landscape features native and adapted plants that are drought-resistant and require little maintenance. Geothermal heating and cooling saves significant energy and costs over the life of the building. The site was master-planned to conserve land and account for future facilities, and geothermal wells were located accordingly.
A traditional exterior of brick and cast stone, and a light–filled interior with aluminum windows and porcelain tile enhance the student experience and require minimal maintenance. Bold school colors in economical materials provide identity. Athletic fields are positioned to conserve land and to be shared with future school facilities. Core classrooms are directly adjacent to collaborative spaces, maximizing adaptability. The student union and media center are open to students all day.
The design applies the successful model of project–based learning from the smaller scale to the scale of 2500 students. A variety of spaces in which to work and learn include direct access to shared collaborative areas and smaller conference rooms in each academic cluster. A distributed media center and adjacent coffee bar create a multi-story social hub for the school. The business academy functions as an office within a school, with blended classrooms, an open office plan, and exhibition hall.
Star of Distinction Category Winner