In light of the Ballard school district’s increased growth, the need for a new high school presented an opportunity to completely reinvent the educational and civic environment of the community. Presuppositions about how a high school should work and what it should look like were discarded early in the programming phase, allowing the design to evolve and change to meet the needs and vision of the district. Being sited on the edge of town and clearly visible for miles around, it was imperative that the new high school create an iconic image indicative of the progressive mentality of the district. In striking contrast to the agricultural backdrop, the curtain walled facade of the media center coupled with the red brick and precast concrete walls creates an iconic and distinctly modern architecture in the rural landscape. Flooded by daylight, the commons serves as a community gathering space for community events in the adjacent auditorium, band/vocal rooms, media center, and gymnasium.
The arrangement of the two wings of classrooms allows for future classroom and athletic additions by maintaining simple circulation patterns and natural wayfinding without sacrificing natural daylight. In addition to providing a means for future growth, several sustainable initiatives were incorporated into the design such as wind turbines which generate up to 50% of the school’s energy, water retentive prairie grass landscaping, high-efficiency glazing to provide natural daylighting in 98% of all learning spaces, using local durable materials such as polished concrete floors and concrete block walls, and utilizing efficient HVAC systems. The sustainable initiatives of the project have instilled a mentality within the school district to make future buildings in the Ballard district models for highly sustainable design.
Visionary in approach, this high school is a model for sustainable design in rural communities. Providing magnitude and direction to the market viability of high design outside Iowa’s urban centers, this high school pronounces that progressive architecture has the ability to be a catalyst for renewal in rural communities, providing a means to preserve Iowa’s rural identity for generations to come.
New high school