Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences Middle School

Seattle, Washington

Project Size:

69,900 square feet

Project Status:

Completed 2018


Education Design

Selected Awards

2021 AIA National

Honor Award for Interior Architecture

The Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences (SAAS) Middle School continues the evolution of the school’s urban campus.  The new building provides educational programming configured vertically to leverage the limited site, enhance pedagogical principles and connect with the surrounding community.  At the intersection of Union Street and 13th Avenue, the Middle School synthesizes its urban condition and program into a six-story academic volume relating in scale to the mixed-use commercial core along the arterial street.  A lower volume, dedicated to athletic activities, mirrors the scale of the residential context found along 13th Avenue.

The Middle School’s core academic spaces occupy the upper floors in the new 69,900 SF building, while the lower floors provide for entry, general gathering, administration, maker space, and music instruction. A gymnasium and outdoor rooftop playfield provide valuable physical activity space, utilizing an often-overlooked outdoor space in the urban contexts.  The lower floors of the Middle School provide internal access to adjacent Seattle Academy buildings, underscoring the projects function as a campus connector.

Each Middle School grade occupies a floor within the building.  Classrooms, the building block of the program, are organized around collaborative learning spaces promoting project-based coursework and cross-disciplinary discovery.  Areas of glazing in each classroom create a transparent and porous connection between classroom and collaboration space, enabling learning activities to flow seamlessly between them.  Collaboration spaces are designed as a series of stepped double-height interior volumes that cascade between floors, enhancing visual and physical connectivity between all grades within the stacked program and creating opportunities for students to explore, cross paths, interact and engage beyond the four walls of the classroom. While the stepped collaboration spaces are central to SAAS’s educational mission, they also form the architectural expression of the building. On the exterior, brick wraps both building volumes and is punctuated by expanses of transparency that directly relate to the collaboration spaces within. The transparent glazing cascades down the exterior of the building and resolves into a primary gathering space anchoring the urban intersection.  An outdoor space at the entry provides a welcoming, street-level gathering place for students and an urban amenity for the community.

The building reflects the school’s commitment to a socially and ecologically responsible learning community, where sustainable features actively foster student engagement.  Building analysis modeling optimized daylight, solar exposure and natural ventilation. The multi-story classroom bar, oriented north-south, maximizes solar heat gain in winter while sunshades limit solar heat gain in summer.  Learning spaces incorporate mechanically assisted natural ventilation and passive cooling. Indicator lights in every classroom empower students to manage classroom operation modes. The school’s design creates spaces whose order and definition are synonymous to the culture of Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences. The Middle School is configured to provide students with a supportive learning environment that fosters independence, experimentation, and a dialogue between the educational curriculum and the urban neighborhood of Capitol Hill.