New Elementary Schools Win Award for Interior Design and Architecture

Bright colors, fun shapes and playful window arrangements are some of the features of Federal Way's new elementary schools that helped win a prestigious interior design and architecture award for the schools and their design teams.

The DLR Group was recognized with the best Design in Public Award 2010 by the International Interior Design Association, Northern Pacific Chapter. The award was for interior design at all four elementary schools. The completed Panther Lake and Valhalla buildings were submitted as examples.

Noah Greenberg, the principal architect, said the award is a special honor because low-budget public schools are rarely selected as winners among entries from often expensive and exotic courthouses, museums and libraries.

At the award ceremony on October 4, judges told the crowd that they were impressed by how Federal Way's new schools brought modern design and poetics to children. "We're making special places for children and I guess the judges recognized that," Greenberg said.

"Education takes place outside just the classroom. The learning environment is the whole site and so children need to be stimulated everywhere they go," Greenberg said. "We did it through the use of color, we did it through the use of shape and it's the kind of building that's easy for children to understand."

At Valhalla, for example, the library is blue and designed with curves and circles. The dining room is yellow and emphasizes cube shapes. And the stairs are red with lots of angles. "Kids know those spaces are for them," Greenberg said. "For adults it's a little bit startling but to a kid it's perfectly natural, and that's who this building is for."

District leaders set the vision for the new schools and encouraged designers to get creative and playful, Greenberg said. "It's a great honor to win this award and we know we couldn't have done it without the district and their goals."  

Rod Leland, district facilities director, said the award was well-deserved by the design team. "We hire great people to design and build our schools and we are very pleased they received this award. They deserve to be recognized for the work they do."

The new elementary schools are being rebuilt as part of a 2007 construction bond package to rebuild old and deteriorating schools. Panther Lake and Valhalla elementary schools opened in 2009. Lakota Middle School opened in 2010. New Lakeland and Sunnycrest elementary school buildings are currently under construction and are scheduled to open in 2011. The bond will also fund new transportation, maintenance and nutrition services sites.

Posted: November 9, 2010