Dena’ina Elementary School
To address overcrowding, the community of Palmer, Alaska needed a school that maximized learning while minimizing environmental impact. When we learned that this region is a seismic zone with only a few hours of daily sunlight throughout the school year, another layer of planning was needed to ensure a safe, student-friendly space.
Using the landscape as a starting point, the team employed LED lighting, a natural materials palette, perforated railings, interior windows, and colored glass to capture light. The lateral bracing required to stabilize against earthquakes became a design element: visible from the commons and gymnasium, the bracing inspired the pattern of the interior windows into the classrooms.
The team combined circulation with shared spaces to more than double the amount of collaborative areas. The result is a safe, colorful school providing students plenty of opportunities for 21st century learning.
Bettisworth North Architects and Planners