Schools have long been designed based on the myth that children need to be protected from “distractions,” including daylight. But just as offices full of monochromatic, poorly lit cubicles make worker productivity suffer, dreary environments sap our kids of energy. School feels like prisons largely because they look like them.
Section Eight Design, a small firm in Victor, Idaho, applied green building techniques, rugged functionality in design, and an eye for creative spaces to its plan to design a campus for Teton Valley Community School—and then added a few more. Since part of the school’s philosophy is to encourage different age groups to interact with and mentor each other, Section Eight made most classroom dividers collapsible and/or reconfigurable. The “drawing back the curtain” theme gets even more literal: as one of the school’s goals is to teach it’s students about the built environment, a science lab adjoins the mechanical room and teachers can fold down partitions to help illustrate their lessons. What makes the design even more genius is that it’s a modular plan (buildings can be prefab) that allows schools to do easy, pay as you go expansion. This is particularly useful in rural or semi-rural areas where school districts are shrinking down to a few overcrowded facilities and often have to create makeshift satellite campuses to handle the overflow.
The design for the Teton Valley Community School was a finalist and eventual winner in the Architecture for Humanity and Open Architecture Network's 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom.