Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences Middle School
By embracing its tight urban context and vertical organization, the Seattle Academy of the Arts and Sciences has taken the next step in the evolution of the school’s campus. At the corner of Union Street and 13th Avenue in Seattle’s vibrant Capitol Hill neighborhood, this six-story academic volume reflects the scale of its mixed-use commercial surroundings. A lower volume dedicated to the pursuit of athletics mirrors the residences that line 13th Avenue.
The school’s core academic spaces are found on the upper floors of the nearly 70,000-square-foot building. Leveraging often-overlooked rooftop space, the team placed an outdoor playfield there to provide opportunities for physical activity. The spaces below house the entry points, general gathering spaces, administrative offices, a makerspace, and support for music instruction. The lower floors also provide direct connections to the academy’s other buildings, positioning the middle school as a vital point of connection on the campus.
Each grade occupies one entire floor, each featuring classrooms organized around collaborative learning spaces that support the school’s project-based curriculum and provide opportunities for cross-disciplinary discovery. Swaths of glazing in each classroom foster a sense of transparency and porous connection between the spaces, enhancing the natural flow of learning activities.
Throughout the building, sustainable strategies reflect the academy's commitment to creating a socially and ecologically responsible learning community.
The collaboration spaces were designed to be a series of double-height volumes cascading between floors. In doing so, the team enhanced connectivity among all grades in the stacked academic program to provide moments of exploration and interactivity beyond the classroom walls. While the collaboration spaces are core to the academy’s mission, they also form the backbone of the school’s architectural expression. Outside, the volumes are wrapped with brick and punctuated by stretches of transparency that correlate directly with the collaboration spaces inside. The transparency stretches down the building until it resolves as a primary gathering space at the intersection.
Throughout the building, sustainable strategies reflect the academy’s commitment to creating a socially and ecologically responsible learning community. Building analysis modeling optimized daylight, solar exposure, and natural ventilation. A multistory classroom bar with a north-south orientation maximizes solar heat gain in the winter, while sunshades limit solar heat gain in the summer. Throughout, indicator lights in every classroom empower students to help manage classroom operation modes.
This new school is configured to offer students a highly supportive learning environment that infuses their education with independence, experimentation, and a dialogue with the energetic urban neighborhood that surrounds it.