Pinnacle View Middle School – Little Rock School District
Purchased by local school district, this decommissioned warehouse revealed a unique opportunity to create a model 21st century learning environment. With a huge volume, the single-story facility was modified to accept large span solutions for public areas and allow a second level to be constructed to facilitate multiple learning academies – all promoting community throughout the new middle school.
Constructed in the 1990’s for product handling of a catalogue supply company, this warehouse had been vacant for nearly a decade. Convinced the property could be quickly converted into a middle school, it was purchased by a local school district for repurposing. As the first new middle school construction in over 50 years for the district, 21st century-learning environments were embraced and implemented throughout – bringing life to this once abandoned building. The volume of the existing building provides a backdrop like no other school facility within the state. The ability to add second floor space, light shafts, community areas and functional transparency within a rigid box was a unique design experience for the team.
The team designed ways to share and distribute natural light within the dark warehouse to anchor learning neighborhoods throughout. The existing structural grid was modified to create the necessary open space for the gymnasium and cafeteria, and facilitated introduction of daylight in those areas. Skylights added throughout the corridors bring natural light into the depths of the building, hallways and interior classrooms.
Due to the depth of the existing structure, classrooms had to stretch out from exterior wall to interior corridor. Considered a rare luxury in public K-12 design, a typical classroom became approximately 1,000 square feet and broken into traditional space but also included individual or small group project centers within each room. This concept applies to every classroom. With one year of operation, teachers are seeing the benefit in addressing individualized learning needs.
Transparency within the structure reinforces discovery and exposes all things curious to the 1,200 middle school student as they move about the facility. Program areas are located to ‘capture’ interest and entice students to think about and want the experience of project based learning in their lives. Feature classrooms, like robotics and art, are located along interior corridors with large glass walls, acting as not only a window of inspiration but bringing daylight to the corridor. Life skill tools of collaboration while embracing independent thinking, discovering how you learn best while allowing others to find their path to optimum learning were goals of this project.
Care was given to ensure connectivity between each level and celebrate spaces where students come together. A monumental stair defines the main social gathering spot for students. This was situated to both bring relief to a massive and long building, but also to gather both students arriving at the main entry from parent drop-off and those arriving on the north side from bus drop-off. The face of the former warehouse has been transformed with a new canopy designed to significantly mark the main public entry – inspired by the nearby Pinnacle mountain and the school’s namesake.