Weisman Design Group
In a residential neighborhood of Bellevue, Washington, the design of Bennett Elementary stands in contrast to the stale suburban school typology: instead pairing outdoor exploration and learning with a contemporary educational facility. Preserving existing Douglas Firs grove at a scale of 12 times the required amount, the school is nestled between conifer stands, which allow for calming views from within classrooms. Rudimentary exploration trails were improved without disturbing mature trees and to take advantage of views made possible by significant elevation gain on the site. Working with the grade rather than fighting it, the designers stacked and staggered the building masses up the slope, allowing mechanical equipment space to be buried under the learning spaces. This building siting resulted in an increase in the amount and variety of views to the west, shrunk the profile of the eastern faA?ade so as to appear less massive to neighbors, and created multiple opportunities for outdoor and rooftop learning spaces.
Bennett Elementary is located in a single-family, residential neighborhood. As a client to Weisman Design Group, Bellevue School District is increasingly committed to reducing environmental impacts of building projects and increasing opportunities for outdoor education.
Since a multitude of recent studies have pointed to a correlation between physical exposure to our views of green space with increased cognition levels and reduced stress among students, the design of Bennett Elementary's landscape and building reflects this approach to K-12 learning spaces. Numerous courtyards and windows allow the building to maximize natural light, which can feel fleeting in Pacific Northwest winters. The designers took every opportunity to incorporate outdoor learning spaces (seven in total), serving as an extension of the building as a learning landscape. These spaces are significant for their siting and capacity, so that entire classes can easily spill out for a lesson, but also in their proximity to urban nature, mature trees and landscape infrastructure. They invite students to not only sit, but to explore and discover.
As seen in LASN magazine, June 2020.