2019 AIA Awards, Arlington Elementary School

Mahlum Architects,

Benjamin Benschneider,

Tacoma, Washington USA,

School, Mahlum Architects,

One of the 2019 AIA Awards winners is Arlington Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington by Mahlum Architects.

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2019 AIA Awards, Arlington Elementary School One of the 2019 AIA Awards winners is Arlington Elementary School in Tacoma, Washington by Mahlum Architects. An exploration of the spatial possibilities that emerge when schools are envisioned as living, breathing organisms, this elementary school eschews basic assumptions and promotes a new model of civic practice in education.

After the project for a building for university students now we're taking a look at architecture for a primary school. Arlington Elementary School by Mahlum Architects is located in Tacoma, Washington and it has adopted a new model of primary education that embraces the whole local community and is based on the concept that we never cease the learning process.
The project itself is the outcome of a framework of inquiry created by the local public school administration that monitored demographics and the new teaching trends. Arlington Elementary School is the first ground-up school designed with this vision, with administrators and designers working together to come up with a response to all the needs, embracing values and proposing an architecture and layout that takes the learning process to a whole new level. 
Flexibility is the order of the day at Arlington, as is holding on to the connection between students, community and school. There are no traditional classrooms here, the goal is to create lifelong learning spaces for all kinds of study and learning activities. The new school is open and welcoming, with glazing replacing closed-in, solid walls.  In addition to serving 450 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, the school is a resource for adult education, offers community programs, and functions as a regional hub for preschools.  
Mobile teaching stations are liberating for teachers and enable smooth transitions between spaces.  Stackable furniture creates soft divisions of space, and walls can be written on and moved, affording students room to explore all the space around them.  
As a central tenet of the school's design by Mahlum Architects was to support the relationship between indoor and outdoor learning. In the plan, the building comprises a central core with four wings reaching outward - outdoor learning spaces abutting or in between them A covered play area with brilliant persimmon-painted surfaces doubles as an outdoor theatre and allows students to go outside, even in poor weather and water tables prompt early explorations of fluid dynamics. The school’s saw-toothed roof floods natural light into interior spaces, and views of green spaces and the sky throughout demonstrate its embrace of nature. 
The design team turned to modular construction to meet the project’s budget demands without sacrificing the architectural programme. The new school was constructed on the playfields of the school it replaced, contributing to keeping costs down. The students loved rolling down the hill, which has now been enhanced with slides so the kids can still enjoy this outdoor fun. The result is a stimulating learning environment for children and for the community at large.  Arlington Elementary School has been recognised with a 2019 AIA Honor Award, the most important celebration of the American Institute of Architecture for economically and socially sustainable architecture.

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Mahlum Architects
Location: Seattle, Washington, USA
Year: 2018
Images: Benjamin Benschneider