Nestled in juniper and ponderosa pines and volcanic boulders on a gentle slope, on the rim of a dramatic canyon, Cascades Academy of Central Oregon houses students from Pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The 38,500-square-foot independent school near the Deschutes River consists of distinct wings forming a protected courtyard: the main wing with a library, science labs, and offices; the commons, upper and lower classroom wings; and a detached gymnasium.
The nonprofit school encourages experiential learning in the natural environment. This is expressed architecturally with spatial connections, terraces, porches, and views to the high desert landscape; abundant daylight flooding in from clerestories, skylights, and banks of deeply shaded glazing; natural and displacement ventilation coupled with operable windows; and healthy, natural materials. Careful planning avoided impacting the sensitive canyon landscape and parking is knit into the site to retain existing trees.
Interior spaces flow into one another and beyond, to the site. The library sliding barn door opens to the main corridor; the main entry spills into the commons; folding glass panels connect the commons with the canyon; and glazed garage doors link the gym to the outdoors. Large overhanging roofs at exterior gathering spaces provide shade and shelter from snow. Panels of western red cedar siding, continuous from exterior to interior, are separated by vertical strips of glazing that evoke openness and permeability. Surprise windows are playfully, yet strategically, placed for students to connect to the site. Interior accent colors are inspired by the surrounding trees, skies, and earth. As the Middle and Upper School corridor widens to a student seating area, the Lower School corridor narrows to an intimate space for younger children.
A geothermal field beneath the athletic field is the primary energy source taking advantage of the excavation required for the playing field on the rocky site. The school is heated by exposed radiant slabs. A small window is provided in the slab for students to see the radiant tubing. The gymnasium, constructed with an insulated concrete forms, relies entirely on passive cooling and ventilation with large ceiling fans and air intakes with automated dampers.
Our clients were exceptionally committed to long-term thinking and retaining the character of their site. In realizing the project at $200/sf, the designers, contractor and owner all worked together with a deep sense of ownership.