In May, Prentiss+Balance+Wickline Architects won an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Education Facility Design Award for the Little Star School’s “Galaxy” building.
At the end of June the lead architect for the project, Margo Peterson-Aspholm, traveled to Chicago to accept the award at the annual AIA conference, accompanied by her husband, Methow Valley teacher David Aspholm.
“We had such a good experience in Chicago,” Peterson-Aspholm said. “It was fun to engage with all these different architects, including some famous ones like the husband-wife team of Brooks + Scarpa, Tom Kundig, and Marlon Blackwell.”
In fact, Peterson-Aspholm had contacted Blackwell when the Little Star design project launched.
“Marlon Blackwell Architects had won several awards for a Montessori school they designed in Fayetteville, Arkansas,” she said. “I knew that they were working with a tight budget, and had some other constraints similar to ours, so I called his wife [architect Meryati Johari Blackwell] and explained to her what I was working on and asked ‘How do you pull something like this off?’” The Blackwells gave Peterson-Aspholm advice that helped guide her thinking about the Little Star project.
At the awards ceremony, “All the award winners just mingled with each other and then they announced the gold medal winner [Brooks + Scarpa] and the 25-year award winner [Steven Holl Architects],” Peterson-Aspholm said.
She added, “Everyone liked talking to David [Aspholm] because he was one of the few non-architects there.”
“It was interesting to hear about all the projects,” Peterson-Aspholm said. “Some of these buildings had $200 million budgets. They were part of a large campus, they were living buildings or carbon neutral — all these cool things I would love to have the opportunity to design someday.”
The Little Star project’s budget was considerably more modest, but Peterson-Aspholm said she was thrilled to have been a part of it.
The keynote speaker for the AIA conference was former President Barack Obama, who apparently considered becoming an architect before he got into community organizing. “That career worked out for me,” he told the architects.
Obama has close ties to Chicago and his presidential center slated to be built in Jackson Park in Chicago’s South Side will meet metrics for sustainability as well as including traditional amenities like a library and innovative facilities like a start-up business incubator and a sledding hill, according to Peterson-Aspholm.
One of seven facilities nationwide to receive an Award of Excellence for “state-of-the-art designs of schools and learning centers” selected by the Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE), Little Star’s Galaxy building includes three classrooms, several administrative spaces, and a large common room.
One of the jurors judging the project submissions noted “This project responds to the community and their culture and needs in a really beautiful way.” Another wrote that the Galaxy building “is well-integrated into the site and fits the surrounding architectural context while being respectful of the environment.”
While in Chicago, Peterson-Aspholm and her husband met up with Methow Valley part-time residents, the principal architects and owners of Johnston Architects, Ray and Mary Johnston, whose most recent milestone project in the Methow Valley is the new Winthrop Library in conjunction with Prentiss+Balance+Wickline. “We all had a toast to finishing the library,” Peterson-Aspholm said.
For Peterson-Aspholm, working on the Little Star expansion was personally meaningful. “Both my kids went there for years and loved it,” she said, recalling in particular her children’s affection for school founder Rayma Hayes. “It was a real honor to celebrate Rayma this way.”