Canyon View High School

Architect: DLR Group

Owner: Agua Fria Union High School District #216

Location: Waddell, Arizona

Category: Merit

Eager to serve the generations of learners in Waddell, Arizona, Canyon View High School encourages academic success and exploration by expanding on the notion of a place-based school. Developed in concert with parents, students, and local business and government representatives, the story of its design and construction is one of collaboration. Nearly 500 stakeholders took part in community meetings to shape the bold ideas that form the foundation of its design.

The project began in 2015, when a collective of teachers, administrators, members of the community, and the architects gathered to better understand the future of teaching and learning. The process was informed by a number of visits to leading American educational institutions, both public and private, which underscored the need for flexible teaching environments reinforced by digital platforms for learning. From this collaborative process emerged a set of guiding principles that form the framework for the school’s success.

Welcoming nearly 2,000 students every day, the school’s 237,120-square-foot design fosters grade-level collaboration and a number of pedagogies among diverse spaces that help individualize learning. Ownership of the classroom has been transferred to the collective school, and its faculty rotate through the learning spaces weekly, while students are free to pursue a curriculum in line with their interests. To that end, all classes can adapt to spontaneous learning and can be adjusted on the fly.

The design team leveraged the Southwest’s climate and arranged the campus as a series of buildings around a central outdoor agora, where students gravitate to outdoor eating areas and can opt to skip the indoor cafeteria. The central node of the agora, a cluster of learning environments that promote the future of teaching and learning, is dubbed the accelerator. The accelerator hosts a number of the school district’s events and was showcased at an international conference focused on innovative learning spaces.

“The project hits on equity, health, and accessibility. Every indoor-outdoor space is a place for socializing, movement, gathering, performing, and creating as a community of learners.” - Jury comment

Four learning communities compose the agora’s north edge where, on the second floor of each community, flexible learning and teaching spaces shift depending on specific group activities. Imagination and creativity run rampant in these connected spaces that fluidly merge with one another and are playfully referred to as forts. A mix of six primary learning settings are positioned around each suite with two labs and connections between them. A central learning commons in each fort can accommodate group configurations from intimate to large, with comfortable seating and integrated technology.

Thoughtfully crafted and carefully balanced within the constraints of the budget, Canyon View High School focuses on the student experience. Highly flexible in its approach, it blurs the lines between ages and abilities to present truly authentic learning.

Additional information

Project team

Architecture: DLR Group

A/V Design: The Sextant Group, Inc.  

Engineer - Civil: Atherton Engineering, Inc.

Engineer - MEP: DLR Group

Engineer - Structural: DLR Group

Food Service: Design-Tec Food Facilities, Inc.

General Contractor: Chasse Building Team

Interior Design: DLR Group

Landscape Architect: Logan Simspon Design and DLR Group

Sustainability/Energy: DLR Group


Judith P. Hoskens, Assoc. AIA, (Chair), Cuningham Group Architecture, Inc.  

Malcolm Holzman, FAIA, Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture

Dina Sorensen, Assoc. AIA, Learning Environment Project Designer & Research Liaison

Lawrence W. Speck, FAIA, Page Southerland Page, Inc.

Amy Yurko, AIA, BrainSpaces Inc.

Image credits

Canyon View High School exterior

Bill Timmerman

Students gather in the learning commons

Tom Reich / trPHOTOart

Students in the agora

Bill Timmerman

Accelerator exterior

Bill Timmerman

PV panels and landscaping detail

Bill Timmerman