Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design
Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design

Alexandria City Public Schools embraced replacing the former Jefferson-Houston K-5 Elementary School with a new PreK-8 School in order to support growing enrollment and improve academic outcomes. The only school in northern Virginia to earn “Priority” status in 2012 (when planning for the PreK-8 school was first underway) – a new Jefferson-Houston offered the opportunity to rebuild both the school and the community support needed to guarantee its success. As part of the intensive planning process, the design team authored a set of Educational Specifications which connected the community’s needs to the school’s innovative PreK-8 program and created a shared sense of ownership for the new school.

Alexandria City Public Schools embraced replacing the former Jefferson-Houston K-5 Elementary School with a new PreK-8 School in order to support growing enrollment and improve academic outcomes. The only school in northern Virginia to earn “Priority” status in 2012 (when planning for the PreK-8 school was first underway) – a new Jefferson-Houston offered the opportunity to rebuild both the school and the community support needed to guarantee its success. As part of the intensive planning process, the design team authored a set of Educational Specifications which connected the community’s needs to the school’s innovative PreK-8 program and created a shared sense of ownership for the new school.

Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design

Drawing on the high-density setting of the school’s urban site, the Educational Specifications outline a “nexus approach,” wherein people, programs, and services are clustered in close proximity to each other to maximize resource sharing and reinforce the neighborhood context. The school’s major building elements were thoughtfully placed to emphasize this special nexus of community and context:

• A transparent gymnasium provides a strong, shared-use presence at the intersection of Cameron and N. West Streets.

• The Media Center serves as a monumental terminus for Queen Street, above which is a rooftop garden and outdoor classroom for students and community partners.

• The school’s prominent public entry is strengthened by a dynamic, circular tower. Housing communal learning spaces, the tower serves as an urban and academic locus for the school.

Drawing on the high-density setting of the school’s urban site, the Educational Specifications outline a “nexus approach,” wherein people, programs, and services are clustered in close proximity to each other to maximize resource sharing and reinforce the neighborhood context. The school’s major building elements were thoughtfully placed to emphasize this special nexus of community and context:

• A transparent gymnasium provides a strong, shared-use presence at the intersection of Cameron and N. West Streets.

• The Media Center serves as a monumental terminus for Queen Street, above which is a rooftop garden and outdoor classroom for students and community partners.

• The school’s prominent public entry is strengthened by a dynamic, circular tower. Housing communal learning spaces, the tower serves as an urban and academic locus for the school.

Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design

An aspirational community school, the new Jefferson-Houston features grade-specific “pods” carefully arranged to support adjacencies between students. Flexible breakout areas promote individualized instruction while shared educational spaces (known as Extended Learning Areas) contribute to a sense of community. Instead of a centralized cafeteria, the school uses a distributed dining approach to integrate the social, communal, and educational aspects of mealtime into the learning environment. This “distributed” program both personalizes and shares resources within the school’s community context.

A LEED Gold school, the building acts as a teaching tool, encouraging students to participate in the revealed ecological and engineering functions of the building and its surrounding landscape. Outside, sustainable features include on-site storm water management, water efficient landscaping, and various shading strategies that maximize daylight and minimize energy consumption. Inside, bright colors and frequent injections of glass foster an open, collaborative environment that invites students in and connects them to their surroundings, as an aspirational community school should do!

Completed in association with Concordia and Rust | Orling Architecture.

An aspirational community school, the new Jefferson-Houston features grade-specific “pods” carefully arranged to support adjacencies between students. Flexible breakout areas promote individualized instruction while shared educational spaces (known as Extended Learning Areas) contribute to a sense of community. Instead of a centralized cafeteria, the school uses a distributed dining approach to integrate the social, communal, and educational aspects of mealtime into the learning environment. This “distributed” program both personalizes and shares resources within the school’s community context.

A LEED Gold school, the building acts as a teaching tool, encouraging students to participate in the revealed ecological and engineering functions of the building and its surrounding landscape. Outside, sustainable features include on-site storm water management, water efficient landscaping, and various shading strategies that maximize daylight and minimize energy consumption. Inside, bright colors and frequent injections of glass foster an open, collaborative environment that invites students in and connects them to their surroundings, as an aspirational community school should do!

Completed in association with Concordia and Rust | Orling Architecture.

Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design
Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School Architecture & Design
K12 School Field Architecture

Client: Alexandria City Public Schools

Location: Alexandria, VA

Discipline: Middle & High Schools, Sustainable Design

Completion: 2014

Size: 127,500 SF New Construction

Key Team Members

Awards Received

2016 LEED BD+C Project of the Year
USGBC National Capital Region

2016 Silver Award Winner for K12 Education
Brick in Architecture

2016 Best New Elementary School
Virginia Chapter of the Association for Learning Environments

2015 Platinum Design Award
Virginia School Boards Association

2015 Best School Project
AGC Washington DC Chapter

2015 Outstanding Project
Learning By Design