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Montessori Elementary

Completed as BIM Manager and Intern Architect for Marlon Blackwell Architects
Professional photographs by Tim Hursley
Construction photographs by William Burks


2016 American Architecture Prize: Educational Buildings [Gold]
2014 Chicago Athenaeum American Architecture Award
2014 Gulf States Regional AIA Honor Citation Award
2013 Arkansas AIA Honor Award

As the first building constructed in accordance with the Fayetteville Stream-side Protection Act, significant site restrictions helped form the Fayetteville Montessori Elementary School. Considerable setbacks reduced the build-able area to a small triangle in the southwest corner of the site. Combined with a limited budget and an aggressive schedule, the design had to negotiate strict environmental criteria while accommodating urgent need for classrooms for grades 1-4, a conference room, and a new commercial kitchen. The ground floor opens to include a rain garden that retains and filters rainwater to help mitigate flooding. A green roof atop the single-story eastern volume also helps reduce runoff and serves as further insulation. A second floor is provided along the western edge, housing additional classrooms.

The material palette is kept deliberately simple, durable, and economical, with clear cypress providing a warm and inviting tactility to the southern elevation and entry porch. The cypress reappears above the covered play area, which is the one extension allowed into the flood plain. Pre-finished box-rib metal panels are the primary cladding for both volumes, carefully detailed to elevate this humble material through craftsmanship. This delicate balance between program, budget, and environmental demands results in a taut, high performance school, filled with abundant natural light and invites students, parents and teachers alike to explore the relationship between the built environment and the natural world, as evidenced by the owner’s collection of fossils and other artifacts of nature. Born of its site and certified LEED Silver, the Fayetteville Montessori illustrates that a shared commitment to economy and environmental performance is not exclusive, but can inform and act as an inspiration for the design.