Kansas City, MO. – For the second consecutive year, Hollis + Miller Architects has captured the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) John Shaw Award in the Midwest-Great Lakes Region, which covers 12 states. A regional architectural design competition, the John Shaw Award is intended to showcase innovative design resulting from educators, students and community representatives – all of which are exemplified by the LEAD Innovation Studio.
Part of the Park Hill School District in Kansas City, Mo., the LEAD Innovation Studio is many years in the making. Beginning with a master plan in 2012, the district recognized the need for additional high school space, but without the cost and footprint of a traditional high school. Years of research, testing and iterating with district staff, students and administrators brought the new program to the forefront. The program immerses students in a self-driven, project-based learning program with the support of mentors in a flexible, professional environment. Arriving at the building through the hillside of trees, the immediate perception is not one of a school, but rather a professional building meant to focus on the district’s goal of autonomy and giving students a hold of their own learning experience while preparing them to positively impact an ever-evolving world.
The building and site, slated for LEED certification, was designed to minimize site disturbance – approximately 75% less square footage than a typical high school – and maximize the connection to nature. Award jurors applauded the thorough planning of the environment which led to a clear “breathe” concept evident through its circulation, flexible spaces and the building’s strong indoor/outdoor connections – truly offering users a chance to breathe.
The space does not function like a traditional high school – no art room, media center, teacher-owned classrooms, etc. Rather, the building boasts flexible labs and learning spaces, open corridors for display, breakout spaces, multi-purpose commons, outdoor study areas, presentation spaces and more. The integration of digital, analog and flexible spaces at various sizes enables students to design their learning experience within the parameters of mentorship and provides resources for every student.
“It’s incredibly exciting to receive this award and recognize all of the time and effort our team put into collectively discovering this program and making it a reality,” said LEAD Principal Ryan Stanley. “I watch all of the efforts pay off every day when I see the learning on display throughout the building and experience the collaboration and student development happening here.”
LEAD has served as a “testing ground” for learning in the rest of the district. Following the success of the intentional flexibility and collaboration spaces, the district is now repurposing commons and media centers in its other buildings to follow suit. The mastery-based learning approach has impacted the overarching instructional vision of the district, and the emphasis on learning communities has impacted students, who have noticed a lack of cliques and social hierarchy.
“At Hollis + Miller, we believe in empowering our communities to bring a positive impact to our learners. LEAD is a perfect example of a learning environment where students and facilitators are empowered by their choice in learning which will enable them to connect and contribute to the changing world around them,” said HMA Partner Ryan Walters. “Working together with Park Hill to win not one, but two John Shaw Awards has been very rewarding and showcases the district’s dedication to innovating education in the pursuit of continuous improvement and we are proud to have been a part of it.”
Thank you to all of our partners who helped bring this outstanding learning environment to life, including Universal Construction, Smith & Boucher Engineers, Kaw Valley Engineers, Sara Greenwood and Confluence Landscape Architecture.
For second consecutive year, Hollis + Miller awarded John Shaw Regional Award.