As planning began for the renovation of Hansen, the district’s new vision of educational delivery was limited by the older building’s mid-20th century learning design – a round main building with radial classrooms configured around the perimeter, all connected to a library at the center. The district desired 21st Century styled, individual spaces within and outside the classrooms. We worked to expand the learning delivery model from a strictly lecture-style format to a variety of small group, large group, collaborative and student-centered learning spaces. Multiple iterations were attempted to keep or minimally modify the existing building, but cost projections clearly indicated the need to replace the existing round structure entirely.

This pedagogy paradigm-shift was achieved by creating new learning communities around shared collaborative spaces, which also allowed the ability to architecturally bring natural daylighting deep into the building, creating a more open and airy learning environment. Small group breakout areas were created at every classroom window and were accentuated on the exterior of the building as precast concrete window bays, highlighting to the public the inclusive and transparent learning environments within. The collaborative ‘learning on display’ campus style is evident throughout the building. This is evident, particularly in the student commons/cafeteria which is flanked by an expansive glass wall connecting the students to the playground, outdoor learning classroom and adjacent community park. The commons also doubles as a stage which opens into the new gymnasium for school performances and assemblies. It incorporates an adjustable backdrop and curtain system with dedicated stage lighting.

There were several design opportunities ranging from re-purposing existing space to new implementing sustainable cost savings initiatives. The project needed to be carefully phased and coordinated with the contractor to allow the school to maintain normal educational delivery during the demolition and construction of the large addition. The existing gymnasium/cafeteria was transformed into a new media center space, now centralized within the newly expanded facility. Safe and secure entrances were added into the building by the new administrative offices, without degrading the visual connection to the community. Sustainable solutions were implemented throughout the building with a geothermal mechanical system, clerestory lighting with high-thermal resistant Nanogel filled glazing, LED lighting and occupancy sensors throughout.

Hansen Elementary has quickly gone from the forgotten elementary, hidden behind a middle school, to the most appealing in the district, it truly speaks to the new pedagogy in which all of its occupants enjoy.