Walden Middle School Captures Top Honor In A4LE Midwest Great Lakes Regional Competition

Kansas City, Mo. The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) announced Walden Middle School, designed by Hollis + Miller Architects, as the recipient of the 2021 John Shaw Award. The John Shaw Award is a regional architectural design competition intended to showcase innovative design resulting from collaboration with educators, students and community representatives. Walden competed against submissions from 12 states in the A4LE Midwest Great Lakes region.

Walden Middle School is part of the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Mo. and is the result of master planning and community collaboration efforts leading to adoption of a new sixth grade model bringing sixth, seventh and eighth graders together in the district’s first middle school. The new 114,500 square-foot community-centric building can serve up to 750 students in open, flexible learning spaces while connecting students to nature.

“The project has a clear educational vision that was well expressed in the design. The submission clearly described the community engagement process in creating a new middle school model. The learning environments are filled with daylight, which truly enhance the learning experience. The building is flexible, with great connections to the outdoors,” said A4LE Juror Irene Nigaglioni.

Transparent connectivity creates a safe, comfortable environment for students of each grade, with an emphasis on flexible and adaptable spaces with ample daylighting. The site was strategically selected to offer students direct connections to nature, with a large outdoor courtyard, stream and direct views of the lush foliage surrounding the building. This connectivity, along with strategically designed collaborative spaces, led to an evolution of learning styles for the Park Hill curriculum.

“Walden is a beautiful place for our middle school students to learn and grow,” Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd said. “We appreciate the skill and talent of the team at Hollis + Miller, which is evident in the way they balanced form and function in the learning spaces at Walden.”

Achieving LEED v4 certification, the first middle school in the state to do so, the new building demonstrates how design played a critical role in extending the building’s life cycle and reducing the carbon footprint. The entire campus is a reflection of the district’s prioritization of sustainable features, building occupant comfort, student success and staff wellbeing.

“It has been an absolute pleasure bringing this building to life with staff from the Park Hill School District and the broader community,” said Kirk Horner, Hollis + Miller partner in charge of the project. “We are so excited for the students and staff this building will serve for many years and are really proud of the collaboration and teamwork that went into making this vision reality.”

Additional project contributors include Henderson Engineers, Smith & Boucher Engineers, FSC, Inc., Greenwood Consulting Group, Kaw Valley Engineers, Confluence, Feller’s Food Service and Universal Construction.

About Hollis + Miller

Founded in 1950, Hollis + Miller is an integrated architecture firm that designs the future of learning environments, including public, private, K-12 and higher education. Learn more at hollisandmiller.com.

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