Sep 9, 2021

Award-Winning Outdoor Learning at Salish Coast Elementary

“No child left inside” was the guiding philosophy for the design team in delivering the Salish Coast Elementary School for the Port Townsend School District.  Osborn Consulting (OCI) was the landscape architect for this award-winning project by Integrus Architects.

Three goals guided the new school’s vision:

  • Meaningful, place-based collaborative learning
  • Commitment to engagement with the broader community
  • Recognition of an intimate relationship between their community and their natural setting

Meetings with teachers, students, neighbors and community leaders revealed the community culture and “special gems” that uncovered the significant influence of the existing site and unique role the community played in the life of the school. A thriving community garden was one of the cherished features of the existing school landscape that the community to hold on to, and which now provides farm-to-school programs and food to the greater community.

The stakeholders highlighted the importance and their commitment to the “walkability” of their campus and community so put extra emphasis on pedestrian and bike connections: unlike many of our schools today a majority of students arrive by bikes or by foot. With hope that their campus would act as a community hub beyond the typical school hours, accessibility for after-hour programs at the library and the community garden was to be just as important. Both the community garden and bike / walk lanes have become a focal point of the final design.

Kas Kinkead and Martina Wirtl of the OCI Landscape Architecture and Urban Design team were responsible for the site design in collaboration with the civil engineers and architects.  They created an integrated site that incorporated paved play, stormwater features, a community sports field, two community gardens and fit within tight budget constraints while satisfying program and educational goals. The City of Port Townsend required the addition of an offsite parking lot and a regional bike lane. All of these elements came together for a cohesive design  that supports a diversity of learning, age appropriate play, neighborhood fit and connections to nature.  The project was built under the GCCM process: the OCI team provided extensive coordination and creative site construction strategies to capture savings, such as reusing and salvaging much of the timber from the site for play elements and mulch for the site.  The unique indoor/outdoor connections fit seamlessly into the site, which created “a linear courtyard with desire paths that bring students outside in their everyday movement throughout the facility” (from A4LE Submission PDF).

In 2021, Salish Coast Elementary was recognized by the AIA Education Facility Design Awards in the Merit category, as well as the A4LE Polished Apple Awards for People’s Choice. We are proud to have led the landscape architecture design on such an innovative space that continues to foster collaboration within the Port Townsend School District and community. Alternative learning environments, like Salish Coast’s highly flexible learning landscape, help to develop independence, skills, and creative thinking for students and staff alike. As learning environments continue to evolve, we look forward to designing more spaces that foster these rich connections with the outdoors.

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