Kelly Elementary School offers an unforgettable place for kids to learn their ABCs. A quiet country building with an explosive view of the Teton Mountains, it receives regular visits from wild moose, bison and other wildlife. Unfortunately, the school had leaky walls and hemorrhaged energy after years of extreme weather took their toll. So the Teton County school district commissioned Ward + Blake Architects from nearby Jackson Hole to make it more efficient and easier to maintain. Renowned in their field, the architects went a step further. They gave Kelly Elementary a rugged weathering skin said to be more environmentally-friendly than Cor-ten steel, integrating the building with, and protecting it against, Wyoming's wild, wet and windy environment. Hit the jump for details and browse through our gallery of exterior and interior shots. We don't mean to brag, but they're pretty darn beautiful.
The school’s Principal Pier Trudelle told Inhabitat they were particularly pleased to have local architects work on the renovations, because they have experience with Wyoming’s weather conditions – including high snow loads and wind. She said Ward + Blake are also familiar with the tight knit community, and with the school’s original, traditional design. The 9,627-square-foot school currently teaches 46 students, K-5.
“The school board is very pleased with the beautiful building,” she said. “No corners were cut. The parents love it and the kids love it.”
Mitch Blake said satellite schools like Kelly often feel left out – compared to wealthier communities like Jackson Hole, but this renovation definitely puts them on equal footing. The firm convinced the board to let them wrap the sides and roof in a mild weathering steel that is non-toxic, even though it was a bit more money than the board had planned to spend. For just 35 cents more per square foot, the new material was a no-brainer for the board, according to Blake, since it doesn’t have to be painted or heavily maintained. “It should last 100 years,” he said.
In addition to bolstering some of the structural walls, the architects and contractor attended to interior walls that lacked insulation and replaced the gym’s lighting with LEDs, reducing energy consumption by approximately 40 percent. New skylights also help to bring in natural light, while giving the envelope even more texture and appeal. The design team also used either low or non VOC paints to mitigate off-gassing.
Other than its warm and friendly staff and colorful interior, the view really sets this school apart; with a few small and thoughtful interventions, Ward + Blake completely enhanced the children’s ability to interact more closely with their immense natural surroundings.
“The small punched windows were the first thing I noticed on my original walk-through of the school,” Blake said. “It seemed a shame with the beautiful views and National Park setting. The windows were already paired, so we combined them to create large windows that capture the view and make the interior feel more spacious without having to change the structure.”
All images via Tafline Laylin for Inhabitat