New high school designed for functional future

Cedar Falls High School students, teachers and staff are anticipating the new Cedar Falls High School for August 2024. The new school is designed to be contemporary in look with expandable technology, while also being sustainable.

According to the  Invision Architecture firm website who designed the new school, the building has been designed to accommodate 1,400 students and provide those students with a 21rst century learning environment. The new school will support the school district’s initiatives for professional learning and the district’s student focused power hour.

There will be some major differences in the classroom setups. For example, classrooms in the old high school are closed doors, contained concrete walled rooms that offer a kind of coziness with decorated features like posters and diverse shaped rooms from small to huge. The new school will have class rooms that are well lit with natural light, glass walls, be modular and some rooms will open up to natural spaces. Sounds like a pleasant learning environment to look forward to.

Although some students are very excited about the upcoming move into this contemporary building, others have concerns about the new design, citing that it will feel too cold and open. One thing to remember is that with building a functional educational building, form must follow function. Have you heard of this idea before? According to architectural site the phrase “Form Follows Function” is a self-explanatory term. This means that the functionality of the building should be a driving factor in its creation. Major design decisions should be made based on the function, and form should be derived organically as the process goes on. “Form Follows Function” was coined by skyscraper architect Louis Sullivan, in 1908.  Sullivan believed that what a building’s function was is more important than the form. Despite that logical idea, humans are always going to have concerns about new environments, and the new high school will be no exception. In regard to the new building, students and teachers have varying opinions already. A few teachers have concerns that glass walls won’t feel welcoming and will feel hard to decorate and just impossible to feel warm in, which is understandable. In regards to the new Cedar Falls High School, project manager and architect Tim Turnis replied to this question about designing the new school building.

How was function identified and interrupted as form, when designing the school?

We began thinking about space organization during our programming phase, which identified quantities and sizes of spaces as well as adjacency requirements. There are certain functions of the building that make sense to be adjacent to each other, i.e. locker rooms and gymnasium, or theater and music rooms. From there, planning these spaces starts with laying them out two dimensionally while keeping in mind their three-dimensional qualities that each space may need. As designers, we have to iterate back and forth between a two-dimensional plan and a three-dimensional form.

The final form of the building is a formula of scale, proportion and rhythm. We are able to use building materials to convey any one of these aesthetic qualities. Additionally, we analyze environmental impacts to the building such as prevailing winds, sun exposure and site drainage patterns. These forces push and pull the design so that it responds to them while maintaining the desired function of the interior spaces. The result is a beautiful, sustainable building and spaces that perform to meet the educational needs of the school and are also pleasant to be in.

Sounds great for students and teachers. Form follows function applies to the new building and most contemporary architecture. It’s meant to be efficient and practical within an inspiring space. Sometimes changing environments can be hard, especially learning environments, as we spend so much of our days there, so it makes sense that some students and teachers are concerned. Once our new building is filled with students, teachers, Tiger colors and a little bit of mess, it will feel like home. Change can be good.

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