Thaden Bike Barn

Architecture firm: Marlon Blackwell Architects

Owner: Thaden School

Location: Bentonville, Ark.

Category: Excellence

Project site: Not previously developed

Building program type(s): Education - K-12 school

In Bentonville, Arkansas, Thaden School is an exciting new model for education that combines a unique curriculum melding academic excellence with learning by doing. This building, guided by a master plan shaped in 2016, reinforces the school’s overarching mission and pedagogy that encourages the diverse student body to remain deeply connected to the larger community.

The plan for the campus has united two different plots through a shared street that accommodates cars, pedestrians, and cyclists equally. On one side, the school’s buildings employ a familiar Arkansas strategy where long, narrow buildings are oriented to control exposure to the intense southern sun and allow natural ventilation. On the other, the Bike Barn stands as a modern interpretation of a classic Ozark gambrel barn adapted to support a contemporary academic and athletic program.

The building sits on a berm along the campus’ eastern edge adjacent to the school’s soccer field, cyclocross course, and pump track and connects the school to a greater trail network that extends throughout the northwest region of the state. By adopting the barn form, the team ensured the project accommodates a wide range of sports, including volleyball, basketball, and cycling. It also provides the school with bike storage and additional support facilities.

“The program, while simple, is well executed and paired perfectly with the architecture. It's a node for the community, which is invited to take advantage of the network of bike trails.” - Jury comment


A series of light-gauge wood trusses produced by a local manufacturer supports the barn’s soaring and repetitive frame. Light wood framing is reflective of local barn construction since heavy timber is uncommon in the region. The barn’s large central space is naturally ventilated and relies on minimal artificial lighting. Only its locker rooms and restrooms require active heating and cooling, and the campus geothermal energy plant provides the necessary energy.

Much like the barns that inspired it, the building has several large doors that, when opened, draw in ample additional light and fresh air and elevate its connection to the adjacent fields and bike trails. On its east and west sides, deep porches have been carved into the building’s volume, shading the large openings that look out onto the fields. Overhangs there also divert water into a restorative landscape that uses stormwater to irrigate native plants and crops that students grow on campus.

The strategies employed by the team have shaped a building that is perpetually changing, whether through the play of light and shadow across its structure or the many configurations its openings offer. At night, the Bike Barn is illuminated by LED lights that transform the building into a new beacon for the community.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2020

Gross conditioned floor area: 830 sq. ft.

Project team

Architect: Marlon Blackwell Architects

Engineer - Civil: Ecological Design Group, Inc.

Engineer - MEP: CMTA Consulting Engineers

Engineer - Structural: Engineering Consultants Inc.

General Contractor: Crossland Construction Company

Lighting Design: Taylor & Miller

Landscape Architect: Andropogon Associates, Ltd.

Code Consultant: Code Solutions Group, LLC.


Lori Cappucio, AIA (Chair), SmithGroup, Washington, DC

Omar Bailey, AIA, Shepley Finch, Phoenix

Vince Gonzales, AIA, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle

Kandis Larsen, AIA, Integrus + YGH, Spokane, Wash.

Sindu Meier, AIA, William Rawn Associates, Milton, Mass.

Image credits

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Timothy Hursley

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Timothy Hursley

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Timothy Hursley

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Timothy Hursley

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Timothy Hursley