Design Award Entries

Valley Springs High School

Valley Springs High School is a hillside beacon for education perched on the edge of this small rural public school campus in north-central Arkansas. The prominent translucent glow of the library is stationed by the contrasting forms of labs and classrooms above, crafting a new identity for the district and establishing both a scholastic and architectural landmark within the community.

Project Statement

Valley Springs High School is a beacon, sitting proudly on a prominent corner of campus, representing the community's historic commitment to education. The translucent glow on the exterior of the library is stationed by the contrasting computer lap mass above and these two volumes craft a new identity for the district as the mass volume of highway traffic now has a scholastic landmark. The glowing library serves as a reminder of the former greenhouse that was once a visual marker on this site for thousands of sunsets. The grand entry pays homage to the historic stone architecture on campus as students flow into the building between the light polycarbonate panels and massive gabion walls as a spring would a valley. The gabion baskets contain hand-placed limestone from a local quarry less than a mile from campus while the remainder of the building is clad in a maintenance-free metal panel. The metal panel profiles are randomized to create a unique rhythm that reinvigorates the mundane metal panel surface quality on a typical k-12 campus.

This new two-story, 9-12th grade facility breathes life into the rural campus that has been vacant of major construction for 30 years. The second-story mass spans the stone and polycarbonate forms to cover the entry while the exterior spaces created from this move become an outdoor science lab and a future green roof. These two exterior spaces provide elevated views back to the campus and spark energy for learning with the expectation of experiments and agricultural exploration. The exterior design moves are concentrated and simplistic allowing for a powerful exterior experience while allowing for a high-quality interior experience throughout, with custom fabricated details such as mascot signage and door pulls built by the architect’s own fabrication shop.

The interior spaces are a canvas for the education process with every room, including the janitor’s closet, washed in natural light. These modern yet raw interiors allow the steel structure to stand proud over the common spaces, library, and computer lab. The clean canvas is accented with natural wood tones to provide warmth and grab your attention when needed for building security, library checkout, and academic accolades. The wood slat forms are carved to create function and to accept the approaching students and visitors. The minimalist approach to detailing these forms is also captured with custom-designed HVAC grilles that remove the typical and ever cumbersome metal products.

Valley Springs High School is a 21st-century school building; invigorating, desirable, and cutting edge for students; dignifying, comfortable, and secure for teachers.

AIA Arkansas