Maryland Arts School, Texas Career and Technical Education Center, Oregon Elementary School To Receive 2010 Architectural Awards From AASA

Jan. 25, 2010

Amy Vogt

ARLINGTON, Va. - A magnet arts school in Hagerstown, Md., a career and technical education center in Frisco, Texas, and a public elementary school in Springfield, Ore., will receive top honors in the American Association of School Administrators’ 2010 Architectural Awards contest. These three awards will be presented on Feb. 11 at AASA’s National Conference on Education in Phoenix, Ariz.

The Shirley Cooper and Walter Taylor Awards recognize architects for excellence in educational facilities planning, design and renovation. Winners are chosen by a jury panel of representatives from the sponsoring organizations: AASA, the American Institute of Architects and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International.

Walter Taylor Award

Thurston Elementary School in Springfield, Ore., is the recipient of the Walter Taylor Award, presented annually to a school facility that best meets a difficult design challenge. Formulated and created entirely with local materials and local construction labor, Thurston Elementary is a physically sustainable solution, not to mention an “inspiring, elegant and timeless environment for learning,” according to the Architectural Awards jury. Spreading across 11.36 acres, Thurston Elementary is a combination of warm, buttery wood and concrete tilt-up panels that enclose classroom wings connected by common spaces. Large wood-framed glass walls characterize each of these public areas, as well as the library and the entrance hall, allowing copious amounts of natural light to flood in daily. Mechanically, Thurston Elementary is energy efficient.

Thurston Elementary has been designed to be a sustainable building, Thurston Elementary also integrates some sustainable features into the learning environment, using them as learning tools and promoting an increased knowledge of natural systems amongst its students. It even benefits the surrounding community, housing both a small family center and a small community kitchen for after-school programs. The result is a warm, welcoming and functional environment.

Shirley Cooper Award

Texas and Maryland are home to the winners of the Shirley Cooper Award, which is presented annually to a school facility that best meets the educational needs of its students. This is the first year the award has been presented to two schools.

One of the honorees, located in Hagerstown, Md., is the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. This school is located in a historic building that once housed the Elks Lodge and Henry’s Theater. It was donated by the building’s owner for the purpose of creating an arts school, is located in a small urban setting, and, includes rooftop and rear additions that provide somewhat limited space for students and teachers. Nevertheless, it still does the trick, and the beautiful old building pays homage to its past, as well as indicates its current goal of educating students in the arts. Vibrant color and natural lighting characterize the space, and insulated glass and natural linoleum contribute to the building’s green factor.

Moreover, the school's partnerships with the University System of Maryland, the Washington County Library and the Maryland Theater, are enriching the curriculum and students' academic experiences. Academic classes are accommodated in nearby affiliated buildings, something that greatly assists with the tight space restrictions of the school building itself.

Across the country in Texas is the Frisco CTE Career and Technical Education Design Model, the second Shirley Cooper winner. Hailed as a symbol of progress, and located in one of the fastest-growing school districts in the nation, the Career and Technical Center is a place where students are “empowered to learn.” The center accepts students from all of the area’s six high schools, and offers a nurturing creative environment and a curriculum that promotes critical thinking and intense focus on learning.

The building’s progressive and modern design echoes the school’s mission, with a central atrium that promotes openness, complete with informal seating areas for socializing, and flat screens that communicate daily activities and news, and even display student work. Each classroom and discipline is not marked with a sign, but with a TV screen that displays the activities taking place in the classroom. Similarly, each instructor has a glass office so students have access to the world of their professors, and vice versa. The open environment extends to the curriculum; students who attend the center take responsibility for their own education, shaping their own paths and self-directing their education.

Honorable mentions were also awarded to DLR Group (Overland, Kan.) for the design of Pioneer Middle School in DuPont, Wash.; Flansburgh Architects (Boston, Mass.) for the design of W.W. Morey Elementary School in Lowell, Mass.; Mahlum (Seattle, Wash.) for the design of Gray Middle School in Tacoma, Wash.; and VMDO Architects, PC (Charlottesville, Va.) for the design of Poquoson Elementary School in Poquoson, Va.

The number of entries to the contest this year was 38; 26 firms were represented, according to Lori Vines, who oversees the awards project for AASA.

The designs of the winning schools, including the citation winners, will be on display at the 2010 National Conference on Education, Feb. 11-13, in Phoenix. View photos of the winning projects.

About AASA
The American Association of School Administrators, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA’s mission is to support and develop effective school system leaders who are dedicated to the highest quality public education for all children. For more information, visit

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