Bennett Elementary: Letting Landscape Lead: A New Model for Today's K-12 Schools

Project Title: Letting Landscape Lead: A New Model for Today's K-12 Schools
Landscape Architect: Weisman Design Group
Category: General Design, Public Ownership
Location: Bellevue, WA
In a residential neighborhood of Bellevue, the design of Bennett Elementary stands in contrast to the stale suburban school typology, instead pairing outdoor exploration and learning with a contemporary educational facility. Preserving existing Douglas Firs grove at a scale of 12 times the required amount, the school is nestled between conifer stands which allow for calming views from within classrooms. Rudimentary exploration trails were improved without disturbing mature trees and to take advantage of views made possible by significant elevation gain on the site. Working with the grade rather than fighting it, the designers stacked and staggered the building masses up the slope, allowing mechanical equipment space to be buried under the learning spaces. This building siting resulted in an increase in the amount and variety of views to the west, shrunk the profile of the eastern façade so as to appear less massive to neighbors, and created multiple opportunities for outdoor and rooftop learning spaces. Outdoor learning spaces exist around every corner as a day-to-day curriculum resource, facilitating students’ embrace of their environment.

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