Nestled in juniper and ponderosa pines and volcanic boulders on a gentle slope at the rim of a dramatic canyon, Cascades Academy of Central Oregon serves students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Hennebery Eddy worked with the school on programming, master planning, fundraising, and design for their new campus — a compelling physical space that inspires learning, one in which the outside and inside learning environments are seamlessly connected. Simple, rational building forms are oriented to gather natural light. The dramatic natural features of the property provide beautiful outdoor classrooms ideal for experiential learning programs. The site’s rock-lined canyon is treated with reverence, with the school set back from its edge so as to not dominate it.
Interior finishes complement the site and building and activate spaces. Cedar wall panels and fir doors provide warmth and texture, giving the space the feeling of home. Economical and durable polished concrete floors meld into the dusty desert terrain. Inspired by surrounding vegetation, bold interior accent colors, fabrics, and wayfinding devices provide comfort and ease of use. Classrooms and meeting spaces are configured to respond to a variety of set ups and allow the teachers to deliver curriculum interactively. The sustainable campus was completed in two phases and includes a library, commons area, science labs, a gymnasium, and an “IDEA Lab” makerspace and technology shop for innovation, design, engineering, and art. A covered breezeway connects the upper and lower schools. A nature play area features custom-designed playscapes that integrates with the school’s 21-acre wooded site and encourage interaction with the adjacent terrain.
Cascades Academy embraced long-term thinking with respect to materials and systems. The site and buildings — with no urban utility service — are designed to be largely self-sufficient. Taking advantage of the excavation for the athletic field, a horizontal geo-exchange loop was installed beneath the field; it provides 50% of total yearly heating/cooling load. A 70,000-gallon well and cistern provide water, while on-site sewage and stormwater systems provide treatment. Native vegetation along with low-flow and waterless plumbing fixtures help make the most of this limited resource.
Radiant heat floor slabs and quiet displacement ventilation using 100% outdoor air, coupled with operable windows, optimize comfort for healthy learning spaces. The two wings of the building orient east to west to enhance interior daylighting, while deep overhangs protect openings from unwanted heat gain. South-facing roofs at the classroom and gym were designed to accommodate a 24.6-kW solar panel array. The design features serve to educate students and encourage interaction with and appreciation of the high desert locale.
“We’ve moved into this wonderful new facility that is airy and light…it’s just a whole sort of uplifting environment for the students and for the teachers.”
— Blair Jenkins, former Head of School, Cascades Academy of Central Oregon
For an in-depth look at the design process for Cascades Academy, view the project monograph.