In a town of just 8,000 people, a 310,000-square-foot building is a big deal, especially if it's the new high school. But such a project could easily overwhelm a rural town like Sandy, Oregon, halfway between Portland and historic Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. So the design team at Dull Olson Weekes Architects'IBI Group (DOWA-IBI) broke the mass of the building into a number of pieces and tucked them into the sloping, wooded site. The architects also employed a broad range of sustainable-design strategies that reduce the school's carbon footprint and tie it to the environmental ethos of the Pacific Northwest.
'It's a big building in a small town,' says John Weekes, one of the firm's principals, 'and we wanted it to fit in.' Thirty miles from Portland, Sandy High School draws its 1,400 students from a sprawling, 425-square-mile district that encompasses national forests and scrappy farming towns where money is often tight. The steel-frame building opened in the fall of 2012 to replace a 90-year-old facility down the road that was cramped and outdated.