Prentiss+Balance+Wickline Architects has won a 2022 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Education Facility Design Award for its work on Little Star School’s “Galaxy” building.
Completed in 2018, the new building and playground in Winthrop doubled the school’s size and capacity to serve the Methow Valley community with infant and toddler care, including its facility on the TwispWorks campus, the Little Star South Collaborative.
According to a Prentiss+Balance+Wickline press release, the design team for the Galaxy building was inspired by the late Rayma Hayes, Little Star’s founder and longtime guiding force. The school was founded in 1982, based on the Montessori philosophy.
“Most buildings are scaled for adults and children must adapt to them,” said Margo Peterson-Aspholm, lead architect. “We thought Rayma would appreciate scaling the building to children and making adults adapt. So, we lowered and decreased the size of windows and created various nooks and scaled-down casework. There was some doubt, especially when the building was in framing, about the wisdom of this idea, but I have since heard that everyone — adult or child — loves the playfulness of it.”
The facility includes three classrooms, administrative offices and an activity room, the press release notes. “Interior spaces are filled with light and have strong visual and physical connections to the outdoors. Areas for both active and quiet play are arranged so that children of different ages may observe and learn from each other. The activity room opens directly out to a large grassy oval, where the entire school may gather, making children feel the value of community,” the release said.
Jeff Brown, of AJ Brown and Company Construction, was the general contractor for Little Star. “Jeff and his crew were so dedicated and enthusiastic and did great work on a short timeline and tight budget,” said Peterson-Aspholm.
Community members stepped up to donate to the school’s fundraising campaign, the press release said. “Many local tradespeople and suppliers partially donated their services and materials as well,” according to the release. “An incredible team from Little Star, including departing director Dani Reynaud and Little Star board member and parent Eric Godwin, worked tirelessly with the architect and builder to make decisions, solve problems and craft compromises. Local engineer Jennifer Argraves provided civil engineering.”
Despite an extremely tight budget, many of the project’s sustainability goals were achieved, the release said. They include an enhanced thermal envelope, efficient air-to-air heat pumps, high-quality insulated windows, careful placement of shading and operable windows for passive cooling, extensive day-lighting at interiors, and daylight harvesting. Solar panels have been approved by the town of Winthrop for installation on the building’s roof and will bring the building to net-zero energy consumption.
The AIA jury for the Education Facility Design Awards noted that Little Star “is well-integrated into the site and fits the surrounding architectural context while being respectful of the environment. This is a simple building done very well.”
The award will be presented at the 2022 AIA Convention in Chicago in June, and published on the AIA website and in its magazine.