July 8, 2004

2004 Outdoor Learning Environment

Located north of Seattle, the Evergreen School is a small private school defined by a sprawling campus sited on a steep slope. The building clusters focus on several open spaces, with the primary green space located at the highest point of the site.

In 2003, the design/build studio worked with students, faculty and administrators of the Evergreen School to develop a design for this central community green space.The program that emerged from the discussions included: a central gathering space, in which informal gathering, celebrations recreation and learning would be held, a large green “lawn area for informal gathering and picnicking; a deck serving as an extension for the future arts building; a bench swing/arbor and a patio for chairs and tables and outdoor dinning. In addition a large (human sized) chessboard for the chess club was requested and a bio swale was proposed that would convey and treat the storm water before it enters a creek on the lowest part of the campus. Several gardens were proposed, including a butterfly, northwest, herb and wetland plantings, located to correspond with the climatic conditions.

Five designs were created and reviewed by an advisory committee. A final preferred alternative design was created and presented to the committee. The design character reflects the regionalism of the Pacific Northwest, with many native plants used to create Northwest gardens. The central gathering area is centered with a stone clad amphitheater. The designs, representing symbols of peace from cultures throughout the world, are etched into the stones and were created by Evergreen students working under the guidance of specific faculty. The center point of the amphitheater is the primary organizing point around which most of the elements revolve. The arbor is carved with Native American symbols and the vertical supports crafted from gabion walls with native river rock filling the mesh baskets. The deck is surfaced with Trex bull nosed plastic decking and is used for both stage events and for social occasions, when tables and chairs are set up for parties and dedications.

The storm water is revealed, as it descends and pours out of a pipe, into a seasonal pool planted with water tolerant plantings. The water then follows a bio swale filled with ferns and water loving plants. The entire site is used in the curricula of the school, particularly for science and ecology based courses. The amphitheater is used for story time and other classroom activities.

As the central gathering spot on the campus, the design exudes a sense of community, ecology and innovation.