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Entrant Name

Design Team
Butch Reifert, David Mount, JoAnn Wilcox, Dwayne Epp, Jesse Walton, Amy Noe, Karen Wood, PJ Bauser

Contractor: SpeeWest Construction, Landscape Architect: Cascade Design Collaborative, Civil Engineer: 2020 Engineering, Structural Engineer: PCS Structural Solutions, MEP Engineer: ARUP, Acoustics: SSA Acoustics, Cost Estimator: Rider Levett Bucknall, Furniture: SBI Solutions, Commissioning: McKinstry, Food Service: Bundy & Associates

Owner / Client
Bainbridge Island School District

Wilkes Elementary School

All Submissions > Scale 2: Building Scale

Brain research shows that play and learning are inextricably intertwined; that play is a central ingredient in the development of academic skills, school readiness and school performance. Typical schools isolate one from the other; clearly defining times and places that each should occur independently. This physical and temporal separation has left room for a devaluation of play: more than 30,000 schools have dropped recess; between 1997 and 2003, outdoor play fell 50%; in the last 20 years, children have lost over 8 hours of discretionary playtime per week.

The design for Wilkes Elementary school seeks to address the needs of the whole child, so that powerful learning happens everywhere. The project creates and connects spaces with transparency, removing any physical limitation to educational opportunities; supports a range of learning styles; and blurs the line between play and educational spaces. The functional arrangement fosters collaboration and connectivity, and creates opportunities for variation in scales of learning - from multi-classroom gatherings, to intimate individual experiences.
Emerging from the hillside, Wilkes knits the structure with natural environment and function with pedagogy; healing what was once a steeply divided site. Within the school, students experience a seamless transition from classrooms to interior and exterior shared learning spaces. Designed to support dynamic teaching and learning, Wilkes addresses personalized, ability based curriculum; increases student accountability through learning independence; encourages shared responsibility with an impassioned, highly-educated community; and provides opportunities to involve parents as partners in learning.

Within the school, students experience a seamless transition from classrooms to interior and exterior shared learning spaces. The building fingers into the site, alternating structure and courtyard to optimize natural daylight and erase physical separation. The courtyards slope at the east merging with the playground, gardens and athletic fields that link the school to the community, while the fingers of the building reach out above, sheltering play spaces below.

Circulation paths run alongside and at the end of each finger, inviting engagement and collaboration across grade levels. Within, glazing reinforces connectivity between classrooms, interior shared learning areas, and the courtyards beyond.

A large covered area at the entry encourages community involvement by supporting casual interactions as parents drop-off and pick-up students. This entry feeds into the main public corridor which provides convenient access to the library, music room, commons and community gymnasium, making Wilkes the largest public building, and new cultural hub, for the north end of the island.