Reeds Spring Middle School takes best advantage of a steeply sloped and heavily wooded site to combine student learning, community engagement and the natural environment into its K-12 campus. The design solution accommodates the district’s desire for state of the art technology integration, collaborative learning and storm safety as the highest priorities for its students.
The result of a collaborative planning exercise with the district, a new semi-circular ring road will connect existing district facilities and provide access to new ones as well, including this new middle school. The strong geometry of the road responds to the need for clear organization and site topography, minimizing land disturbance.
In order to preserve the natural environment, the solution eschews the obvious choice to build on the flattest part of the site. This approach reserves precious buildable sites for future athletic fields and buildings while providing storm safety for the entire campus. The choice of site makes use of a large existing surface parking area, minimizing the need for additional parking. Responding to the rugged terrain and natural site conditions, the building is organized into four key elements: ‘the school box,’ ‘the stream,’ ‘the bluff,’ and ‘the den.’
The school box contains all of the tools, both traditional and cutting edge, required for learning. It is positioned along the slope with direct views to the woods from every classroom and access to an outdoor classroom from each level as an extension of the atrium through collaborative learning zones. Marker boards, wireless access points, and convenient charging stations for devices are in each zone and distributed throughout the wing. Counter spaces, soft seating and operable partitions encourage the notion that learning happens everywhere. Team teaching is also supported in these collaborative zones for multi-class gatherings and group projects. At its uppermost level, administrative offices located at the main entrance provide added safety and security for students. The large central atrium follows the sectional profile of the existing drainage topography, collecting and accommodating the flow of people like a stream. The day-lit space provides area for informal learning and social time. An entry court at the lowest level provides a cover for boarding school buses as well as public space for after hours events.
A massive masonry wall retains earth and provides the resilient construction needed for safety, much like the rock bluffs abundant in the Ozarks. Two large gathering spaces – a competition gym and a 1,000 seat auditorium – are nestled into an existing hollow like wolf dens with a turf green roof providing storm safety for the campus. The result is a scheme that celebrates the rugged beauty of the site, with large gathering spaces below grade providing storm safety, and classrooms among the trees.