2019—Magnolia Montessori For All

Magnolia Montessori For All
Architect: Page

Located in the historically disadvantaged, underserved community, the school serves as the first public Montessori school in Austin, TX. In place of the traditional single building, the design team conceived a village with intimately-scaled classroom buildings for its 500 infant-6th grade students. Each building cluster encircles a central courtyard where students from its respective learning community, while a common walkway—or village ‘main street’—that navigates over 30 feet of grade change.

Design—Star of DistinctionDesign

From campus planning to material selection, campus details supports the school’s teaching model and values. Site: Designed as a village, the site features communal spaces, grade level courtyards, playgrounds, and classroom porch gardens. Buildings: Restrained aesthetics use natural light and warm materials, indoor/outdoor connectivity and common spaces for learning and reflection. Classrooms: Accommodate free movement, small group, and individual lessons, as well as an independent investigation.


Residential-scaled buildings allowed for expedited construction. Community assembly space is provided with a centrally located pavilion. This school is 33,000 SF building area and $4.8 M in overall construction costs compared less than recent Texas public school trends. Assuming $225/SF new construction, 20 year bond funding, 5% annual inflation and state average facility maintenance cost, the 45% below square footage trend will result in $25.9 M in ownership avoidance over 30 years.


Daylit classrooms with nature views and expanded classrooms to exterior porch areas with gardens. Reduced operating costs by excluding hallway circulation from the building and creating large conditioned assembly spaces. Reduced maintenance and life-cycle costs by using cost-effective materials, mechanical systems, lighting and LED lighting systems. Honest expression of materials for their inherent nature and beauty, such as polished concrete floors and clear sealed wood shelving.


The school is the first public Montessori school regionally, and the only Montessori school in this historically disadvantaged community. Located in a tight-knit, low-income community, the design focuses on social equity and equal educational opportunity. Neighborhood informed scale and creates comfortable, non-intimidating environments. Resource allocation took cues from the neighborhood, as existing ones were not replicated (i.e. library) and provided scarce ones (i.e. playgrounds).


Planning charrettes were led by the design committee—comprised of administration, board of directors, students, teachers, and parents. The committee envisioned a brave new environment supporting Montessori values and student-focused learning. Direct classroom observation, design workshops, and Q&A sessions gave into each group’s vision, goals and needs. Students participated in architectural tours and broad design discussions, plus advocating for communal spaces and a plant timeline garden.

School Transformation

By engaging mind, body, and senses, learning taps into the whole student and the classroom becomes interactive and self-explorative. Self-directed and individualized learning is the heart of the school’s approach. Multi-age classrooms have younger students observe advance concepts by older students, while older students mentor their younger peers. Non-rectangular classrooms allow students to move freely to investigate, then to match their work to a comfortable spot—inside or outside.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner