Home Building at Thaden School
In Bentonville, Arkansas, the Thaden School has emerged as a new high school that challenges traditional educational paradigms by letting young people learn by doing. The school’s pedagogy hinges on three central programs focused on narrative and visual communication, physics and mechanics, and the intersection of biology, chemistry, and community pertaining to the growing and preparation of food. The Home Building, informed by a comprehensive master plan developed by the design team, is a critical link for the school’s ambitions and houses its food-based program.
The master plan envisioned a series of makerspaces that correspond with the school’s three distinct programs, charmingly named reels, wheels, and meals. The design process included gathering more than 30 school leaders, the team, and a dozen community organizations. The conversations that flowed from those meetings informed the Home Building, which allows the meals program to subvert existing notions of food consumption and production in its contemporary teaching kitchen.
Taking visual cues from the region, particularly the notion of an Ozark farmhouse, the Home Building is clad in board and batten facades, and its all-wood construction incorporates the local architectural vernacular. In addition to housing the teaching kitchen, the building functions as the campus hearth, welcoming students into its expansive dining hall for communal meals.
Like the rest of the buildings on campus, the overarching theme of celebrating indoor-outdoor relationships is embodied in the Home Building’s concept and site planning. Beyond the kitchen and dining hall, the building is surrounded by a productive landscape filled with fruit and vegetable fields, orchards, planter boxes, and a functioning greenhouse. The integration of the outdoor spaces creates a near-perfect loop wherein students harvest crops, cook and prepare them for student meals, then compost the scraps to fertilize future crops.
Sustainability is placed at the forefront of the students’ education, and the landscape functions as a botanical textbook rife with plants that represent a microcosm of the region’s native species. About 91% of storm water is managed on-site through a distributed strategy that includes several detention areas across the site. The building’s rear houses an ever-present “water lab” that invites students to learn directly from their surroundings.
More than just a model for ethical and sustainable food production, the Home Building strives to establish a new vision for the future while celebrating the rich heritage of the surrounding landscape.