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DESIGN TREND: innovation

Innovation can be defined as taking a risk in pursuit of a solution. In addition to willingness to risk, it requires a clear understanding of the problem to be solved and the ability to find opportunity where there appears to be none.


Camino Nuevo High School (Los Angeles, CA), Daly Genik

The first opportunity facing the designers of Camino Nuevo High School was the site. Few people gazing at that skinny slice of land between two busy streets in a noisy, visually cluttered part of Los Angeles would have said to themselves: high school. However the charter school client was compelled to use overlooked parcels for its schools—and to build them with limited funds. Using simple forms and affordable materials, the project transformed an otherwise banal and heavily trafficked commercial streetscape, creating an effective learning environment that shelters students and yet knits itself into the community.


Arizona State University Polytechnic Academy Complex (Mesa, AZ), RSP Architects, Ltd., LakeFlato Architects

The ASU Polytechnic Academic Complex also transformed an unlikely site into an educational setting, reclaiming an abandoned air base to create a collegiate learning environment designed to foster a collaborative, interdisciplinary pedagogy. The project used both new and existing buildings to create courtyards that are planted with indigenous plants and protected from the strong winds, harsh sun and sudden downpours of the desert climate.


Chicago International Charter School Ralph Ellison Campus (Chicago, IL), OWPP
The designers of The Chicago International Charter School Ralph Ellison Campus faced challenges familiar to architects working in urban environments. They were asked not only to reclaim a long-vacant elementary school, but also to convert it to a high school and to create an addition. The original school was an imposing neo-classical structure, and the addition would be spliced between it and a large neo-Gothic church, all three facing the street. Their response was counter-intuitive. Rather than accept the limitations of iconic historical design, the architects juxtaposed an iconic modern design: a rectangular building sheathed in glass. The beauty and transparency of the building, and the sense of community ownership it engenders, protect it. Security was a key concern during planning; but rather than build a fortress, the architects created a building people honor, respect and care for.
Zero Energy Classroom (Hawaii), Anderson Anderson Architecture

School districts will never see the end of portables, so there is valor in reinventing them. The Zero Energy Classroom rejects the limitations of the modular classroom. The designers found ways not only to make it an effective learning environment, but also to make it largely self-sufficient. One step at a time, from the sawtooth roof that introduces daylight without heat to the rain barrels mounted on the side, the pursuit of the solution took the project somewhere no one would have expected a portable to go.


Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery (New Haven, CT), Kiernan Timberlake
The Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery is an example not only of innovation, but also of great architecture. It is about using only what you need for a building. Designed for performance, it does not compromise form, art or connection to community. The innovative design of the skin reflects a considerable commitment of time and thought—and willingness to risk in pursuit of a solution.

Project Information

Camino Nuevo High School (Los Angeles, CA), Daly Genik

Arizona State University Polytechnic Academy Complex (Mesa, AZ), RSP Architects, Ltd., LakeFlato Architects

Chicago International Charter School Ralph Ellison Campus (Chicago, IL), OWPP

Zero Energy Classroom (Hawaii), Anderson Anderson Architecture

Yale University Sculpture Building and Gallery (New Haven, CT), Kiernan Timberlake

 

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