This past July, we looked at the finalists for Architecture for Humanity and the Open Architecture Network’s latest competition, which asked entrants to design the classroom of the future. It’s a vague, open-ended challenge, and one that inspired everything from a rural schoolhouse “kit” to a so-called “blurred” classroom. But the $50,000 grand prize went to Section Eight’s design for the Teton Valley Community School classroom in Victor, Idaho. So why did the prize go to a 1,500-person school currently based out of a remodeled house?
The winning entry turns the Teton Valley school into a “cost-effective and sustainable teaching space” that uses building architecture as a learning tool. Movable panels, for example, allow teachers and students to configure the classroom based on their needs, while the classroom’s walls and ceiling are constructed from locally-produced straw bale. At the same time, the mechanical room is visible from the science lab so that students can see how heating and cooling systems work. And greenhouse space on the south side of the classroom leads to an outdoor classroom that features a greywater system.
Now that Teton Valley has a $50,000 grant, the school plans to build five classrooms modeled on the Section Eight design. Each classroom is built from a modular design that can be connected to to other classrooms as funds become available, so the possibilities for new classrooms are limited only by cash flow. That means the design is ideal for cash-strapped school districts that still want to dream big. Since the design is available on the Open Architecture Network Web site, there’s no reason that the Teton Valley model can’t be used elsewhere.