Located in the scenic foothills of the Cascade Mountain range, Granite Falls is a comprehensive high school serving 800 students. Founded as a pioneer mining and logging community, the town of Granite Falls is located where the South Fork of the Stillaguamish and Robe Rivers spill over the up-heaved granite shelf that bears the weight of the Cascades peaks and ridges. The town high school has always been the pre-eminent civic structure that carries the mission of educating young people and acts as the center of community life. The school district and town asked the designers to develop the new high school as a signature image in the town; a place that students and residents would identify as “their school.”
To mitigate rapidly escalating construction costs with the lean budget, the district’s schedule demanded that all planning, permitting and construction be completed within 30 months from the passage of the bond to the opening of school. This record-setting timeline was accomplished by the extraordinary teamwork and dedication of the design team, the district, and the contractor. A unique approach of early bid packages, project incentives, and expedited procedures ensured the timely success of this project.
The architecture evokes memories of mining camps and logging machinery in a modern context. The massing and balance are derivations of the natural symbolism of geology, rivers, light and shadows of the deep valleys that cut back into the mountains. The segmented front facades are arranged on a slight curve, with skewed faces and sloped glass that catch light in new ways throughout the day. The roof overhangs and structural elements hold dramatic shadows and often appear to reflect or glow. This new school bridges from tradition and history to the present and future, where knowledge, technology and service are the rich resources that will build new opportunities for the next generations.
The educational specifications called for continuation of a traditional high school program, but with the school conﬁgured so as to allow a future curriculum shift to a model of smaller “Learning Academies” within the school. To this end, classrooms are arrayed in wings to support each academy with computer labs, a shared work room, rest rooms and classrooms that can be joined for large groups and team teaching. To complete the shift to the academy model and allow for up to 1,200 students, satellite administration spaces and other shared space can be added at each wing.
Indoor and outdoor gathering spaces and performance spaces were needed for school drama, community theater, athletics, and social events with audiences of varying sizes. The school district was cognizant that the high school grounds, library, theater and the commons would be the most significant gathering spaces available to the community. These important spaces can be used in combination or separately.
The site development also considers seasonal opportunities afforded by the weather. Buildings, public parking and athletic fields encircle an acoustically-refined outdoor amphitheater for performances, outdoor classes, instrument practice, sporting event rallies and to act as an extension of the outdoor commons.