Colorado Springs, Colorado



SCIENCE CANYON is a learning encounter between students/faculty/visitors and the high plains topography of eastern Colorado Springs. View alignments to Pikes Peak punctuate the experience. Science Canyon acts as a central organizing device for the school - encouraging academic cross-pollination while being mindful of the specific needs of each developmental group. Science Canyon choreographs a stream of events and phenomena, a spontaneous journey of discovery, visually culminating in Pikes Peak.

The entire campus is a SITE OF LEARNING, embedded with references to ancient cultures and the origins of science and math. Mythic calendars and celestial movements proscribe and anticipate events in the landscape. Technology meets ritual and is played out in real life in the journey from amphitheater and sport on the east to gardens, a fishpond /hatchery and riparian habitat that merge with the school to the west. Major event venues like the theater and gymnasium, and primary contact points like administration, create the south edge of the canyon. Parking is terraced into the site, proximate to the major venues. Views to Pike’s Peak are always prioritized with foreground berms (built from the canyon excavation) screening cars and foreground development to the west. The canyon terminates in a pond – a wild life refuge that borders the elementary school creating additional educational opportunities and stewardship training.

SCHOOL AS INSTRUMENT. The building literally functions as a receptor/observatory, providing possibility for engagement on many levels- a SCIENCE MENU for all participants. Principles and foundations of scientific thought are woven throughout the school and site. Gravity experiments occur on the science terraces, iconic towers are shaped by wind, sound and optical principles. The architecture of the school is malleable and kinetic in response to changing environmental conditions and seasons. Orientation and the design of sun-control systems, both active and passive, teach about celestial relationships and the path of the sun. Courtyards exploit seasonal changes through deciduous trees and planting strategies based on a Permaculture ethic. In the Ice Court accumulation of snow is measured and mathematic principles of drift patterns are studied.

Points of commonality create thresholds or ‘ecotones’ - between the different schools and age groups. Towers and bridges respond to the topography of the canyon and identify important programmatic elements reinforcing visual and experiential way finding.

ORGANIZATIONAL NEIGHBORHOODS are used to code age-specific geographies. A canyon in microcosm, an echo of Science Canyon helps define the placement of Kindergarten and Elementary School classrooms. Fibonacci spirals, logarithmic segmentation, golden section geometry and solstice alignments organize space. Wherever possible, classrooms expand outdoors to adjacent terraces for playing, eating, or experimenting. The cellular nature of the Middle School reflects an increasingly complex science curriculum. A labyrinth-patterned paved court and the proto-plaza mark Middle School space. Programmatic overlap with the High School begins to inform the design. Moving up the Canyon toward the High School, the event stream becomes more didactic. The scale of experience now reaches out globally. Stream flow, erosion, water conservation and alternative energy studies take place inside and outside High School labs and the Science Village. Music and athletic spaces contribute to theories of kinetics and sound. The canyon is resolved in a monumental public amphitheater and grass court. Athletic fields beyond the amphitheater continue to the east edge of the site connecting mind and body.

In association with executive architect MOA Architectural Partnership