Dena‘ina Elementary School
Situated on a 10-acre site in the spectacular rolling and wooded hills in Palmer, Alaska, the 400-student Dena‘ina Elementary School solves pressing overcrowding issues at surrounding schools. The 44,000 square foot building is located in the center of the site with its main eastfacing entry becoming a light-filled beacon to students who will arrive to school most often before the sun peeks over the horizon. This lack of daylight during the school year became major driver for the form and organization of the building. The planning aligns classrooms facing a preferred southern view and maximum daylight while placing shared functions such as the gym and mechanical spaces to the north. The stair stepping nature of the classrooms creates a “wedge” of internal multifunction space that is used as break-out space for small group collaborative work, simultaneous gatherings of several classes, and a place for all-school celebrations. Designed with best practices in mind, this elementary school also has the potential for a planned expansion to the west that would add approximately 100 additional students.