Flexibility and adaptability fuse with playfulness and biophilic design to allow students to shape the learning environment
What child wouldn’t want to go to school in a treehouse? That was the design theme for Doss Elementary School, known as the “School in the Trees.” When the community realized it needed to replace an older building, they saw an opportunity to make the design a contributor to the learning experience—and that’s where we came in, incorporating unique, playful, features into a sustainable, biophilic design that delivers operational value and contemporary learning spaces.
Inspired by the natural site context, our architecture team embraced the concept of the treehouse and its primary functions—play, observation, and shelter. These define “moments” throughout the interior including: a playful spiral staircase in the library, small seating nooks and breakout areas for focus and contemplation, and elevated spaces where faculty and learners alike can passively observe from above. These elements allow students to feel secure, to explore, and have fun learning.
The library is the treehouse’s iconic focal point and center of learning. It is supported thematically elsewhere with wooden ceilings, specialty lighting, and flexible furniture that helps define corridors and collaboration areas. Moveable glass walls easily extend the classrooms into adjacent flex spaces, allowing the learning environment to best fit the needs of the day’s activities. The result is a playful educational environment that provides each child the opportunity to find their own unique path to learning.
At a Glance
- Austin Independent School District
- 2021-22 TASA/TASB Exhibit of School Architecture – Caudill Award
- 2021 American School & University Architectural Portfolio – Outstanding Design
- 2021 Learning By Design Awards of Excellence – Honorable Mention
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