BIG and Leo A Daly’s Cascading Design for a Public School
Stacked bars fan around a central axis in a scheme that merges an experimental outlook with distinct academic needs.
In its design for the Wilson Secondary School, a public school in Arlington, Virginia, the architecture team of Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and Leo A Daly responds to diverse programmatic needs—with a twist.
The building, scheduled for completion in 2019, will house two existing secondary schools: the H-B Woodlawn Program, which pushes students to build their own academic schedules; and the Stratford Program, a school for students with special needs. To accommodate these distinct programs within a relatively tight space, the architects—as shown in designs released yesterday—designed a stack of rectangular volumes containing classrooms that will fan around a single axis. The resulting cascade of terraces will maximize outdoor space, while giving these vertically oriented pavilions a cohesive one-story feel. Beneath the rotated bars, the ground floor will be open to the general public, connecting the school with its dense urban context. The 52,000 square foot school will be eight times the size of its century-old predecessor.
BIG’s experimental spirit and blocky aesthetic shine through in this final design—as well as in prior considerations for the building. Possible schemes for Wilson Secondary included a ziggurat-inspired model and a design that would heap the classrooms like Jenga blocks.