In light of the school district’s increased growth, the need for six additional kindergarten classrooms and a large group activity space created an opportunity for a fresh new addition to the Ballard West Elementary School in Slater, Iowa. Clearly visible from the main north-south highway through town, it was imperative that the new addition create an iconic image of the progressive mentality of the district. The whimsical dancing windows of the commons area, coupled with clerestory windows and classroom wings create a distinct piece of architecture in the rural Iowa setting, while simultaneously referencing the local agrarian material palette. The commons area links the two banks of classrooms, additional rest rooms, and support spaces while introducing elements of color, natural daylight, and interesting space for group learning & common activities.
The arrangement of the two wings of classrooms and the inclined roof of the common space allow for future classroom additions by maintaining simple circulation patterns and natural way-finding without sacrificing natural daylight within the new commons. In addition to providing a means to allow a growing school district to build further expansion in the future, several sustainable initiatives were incorporated into the design such as natural day lighting with highly efficient glazing, using local durable materials such as polished concrete floors & concrete block walls, and utilizing efficient HVAC systems. The sustainable initiatives of the project have instilled a mentality within the school district for future buildings in their district to be models for highly sustainable design.