Archibald Alexander Elementary School
ClientIowa City Community School District
One of Iowa City’s newest elementary schools, the design of Archibald Alexander Elementary School responds to and mimics the surrounding rolling farm fields. Situated with the main entrance to the east, a wedge-shaped entry offers direct views through to the farm that once operated the land where the school now sits. Another entry at the rear, or west, of the building access the bus pull-through and playground. The building’s angular roof lines mimic the formerly rolling topography of the site, and two-story pop-up volumes in the media center and music and art rooms add dimension and allow natural light to flood in.
The entry wedge — accessed during school hours through a secure buzz-in system — creates community with soft seating and a rotating gallery space to showcase artwork by children throughout the district. Terrazzo floors are both sustainable and durable, reflecting cost consciousness as well as the Iowa City community’s commitment to the environment. A two-story design is also both cost-effective as well as supportive of health and wellness. With community spaces — media, music, art, physical education, and the cafeteria — located on the first floor, students climb the stairs to and from the classrooms on the second level multiple times a day.
Windows are employed throughout the building to connect students to their environment while also daylighting spaces. The two-story volumes in the music room also create better acoustics, while they serve to bring in natural light in the art room. The windows to the media center dominate the front façade, reinforcing the space’s importance at the core of the school’s academic center. The space within the media center is flexible, with an open reading area, low shelving, and a reconfigurable learning area with the technology and space to accommodate multiple classrooms at one time.