2017 Commercial Design Awards
Food fanaticism extends to building design
Waunakee Intermediate School
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From the pages of In Business magazine.
Madison’s reputation as a foodie town continues to be enhanced by an ever-growing collection of restaurants that are notable not only for their cuisine, but their design. In this year’s Commercial Design Awards program, our trio of judges had the most difficult time choosing a winner in the category of Best New Development or Renovation–Restaurant.
In the view of this year’s CDA judges, there were many gorgeous interiors to choose from in the restaurant and other categories, an indication that the local food fight “is on” in areas beyond the taste and texture of menu items.
Elsewhere, our CDA judges remarked on impressive uses of color and materials in the better projects, where atmosphere spoke volumes in submissions like Cask & Ale, which was submitted in the retail category because it doesn’t have dedicated food service.
The judges, all of whom are professional architects, also gave a nod to projects that promote workplace flexibility and collaboration, and one judge in particular singled out those projects that went over and above what is expected of their building type.
In recent years, sustainability has emerged as a key design factor in this and other architectural design programs, not only in the Best Green-Built category, but also in all categories. In the view of one judge, it’s important to not separate architectural design from sustainable design because the better projects integrate both.
As if to prove that point, we start with our Project of the Year, which also happens to be the Best Green-Built Project and the Best New Development or Renovation–Education. In keeping with our practice of the past several years, statewide projects were considered along with those in Greater Madison.
Waunakee Intermediate School
Project of the Year, Best Green-Built Project, and Best New Development or Renovation–Education
Drive through Waunakee and it’s easy to see the village is in the process of building a community with amenities attractive to young families with children. Large homes for growing families that are accessible to soccer fields, pools, parks, and sports/recreational facilities blend in with the occasional cornfield, a reminder of the community’s rural heritage. Relating nicely to this growth pattern is Waunakee Intermediate School, a 156,000-square-foot facility for fifth and sixth grade students that one CDA judge called a model for other educational structures.
With a capacity for 800 students and a philosophy that learning happens everywhere, the building has ample amenities that, if you’ll pardon the expression, set the earth tone. The building connects to the community by being true to its agricultural heritage, as the design concept was based on the farmland that surrounds it. Rectangular patterns and long, horizontal lines correspond to the surrounding panoramic views of straight and orderly rows of crops.
Architects captured the area landscape by using earthy color palettes inspired by natural elements such as the sun, wind, and water. Exterior glass employed a gridded patchwork pattern, inspired by local farm fields, while patterned brick and carpeting also reflect local rows of crops. On the interior, architects continued with the earthy color palette but added more colors associated with the village, including the color of the Waunakee Community High School Warriors — purple.
The school layout also accommodates emerging trends in learning. With an increasing number of students and subgroups, the Waunakee Community School District has embarked on a new way of organizing grades. Neighborhoods inside the school are called “villages” and are organized around the aforementioned elements (sun, wind, water, and earth) to color code a visual way-finding system. A variety of graphics are used throughout the building to create an identity for villages and a special sense of purpose for students.
Architects also created outdoor learning environments adjacent to the building by designing spaces for students to assemble and engage in exploration. A reading garden, formed with a gentle berm and rock steps, serves as a respite in good weather. Large canopies hang over rock outcroppings to form a makeshift classroom (weather permitting) and much of the surrounding landscape serves as a natural prairie habitat.
One CDA judge marveled at the environment for learning created by the architects, using terms like dynamic, lively, and fun. “The talk in education now is about active learning environments, and this project has both active and inviting spaces.”
A network of systems work together for a sustainable building, resulting in lower energy use and lower operating expenses. Examples include geothermal heating and cooling systems installed throughout the building, rooftop solar panels to generate power, energy-saving LED light fixtures that reduce the amount of cooling required, and high-performance glass to allow in more natural light while minimizing solar heat gain and glare. Prairie plantings connect the site to nature and also reduce upkeep with low-maintenance landscaping. “They really pushed the envelope in exploring and utilizing great sustainable design features, especially on the energy side,” marvels one judge.
An online building automation system allows students to login to see how the mechanical functions work. “The best sustainable projects are where all the systems integrate into a comprehensive building design,” notes one CDA judge. “They did a good job with geothermal and solar and other systems, but also with the glazing and the connection of the indoors and outdoors. There was an interest in providing an interface with students so they can actually see how the building is working.”
Location: 6273 Woodland Drive, Waunakee, WI 53597
Owner/Developer: Waunakee Community School District
Architect: Eppstein Uhen Architects
Construction Manager: J.H. Findorff & Son Inc.
Engineers: Sustainable Engineering Group LLC (geotechnical engineer); Fredericksen Engineering Inc. (mechanical engineer); Muermann Engineering LLC (electrical engineer); Point of Beginning Inc. (civil engineer); Pierce Engineering Inc. (structural engineer)
Photography: C&N Photography
Completion Date: August 2016