Vashon Island is a community of highly engaged citizens who guard their community value system with a particular fervor. Building a new school was the largest construction project the community had undertaken. Key to the design process was direct engagement with the island’s unique educational, cultural, and physical environment to create a school to serve the present with capacity and flexibility for lasting impact long into the future.
Building design responds to community values by incorporating ideas about sustainability, community gathering, and connectivity into the daily lives of students. It builds on the original 1970’s era California school model emphasizing outdoor connections and a single story to retain intimacy. Organized around an open-ended courtyard fronted by classrooms and common areas, overlapping indoor and outdoor spaces provide students a more secure environment than the previously open campus. A variety of spaces for study and interaction enables students to find places that suit their own learning styles and with flexibility for a range of student activities. The library and student commons are configured to integrate study and social gathering areas supporting connections that inspire teamwork and creativity.
Truly reflecting the community’s values and serving as a learning tool, wood throughout the school was harvested on the island, extending economic gain and inclusivity with the surrounding community. Rainwater is collected for gray water needs and students practice recycling and food composting, instilling resource conservative values of their island home.