Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana

Schools of the 21st Century; The Latest Thinking and Best Ideas on the Planning and Design of K-12 School Buildings

Program:
A 9,100-square-foot pre-K-through-fifth-grade building and a 6,200-square-foot sixth-through-twelfth-grade building for a charter school serving native Hawaiians of all ages. Located on grassland 2,500 feet above sea level on the Big Island, the single-story wood structures bookend a 9,500-square-foot existing building, which houses classrooms, offices, and a dining commons. The expansion adds more classrooms and offices, allowing the Kanu o ka ʻĀina Learning ʻOhana (KALO) to consolidate its previously scattered program on a single site. The project completes the first phase of a master plan, also by Flansburgh. Later phases will add classroom buildings and a combined commons and performance hall.

Design concept and solution:
KALO needed a campus that would serve its unique educational program, modeled on the traditions of native Hawaiian families. Teachers, who are thought of as aunts and uncles, guide multiage classes through month-long projects in which students contribute to the group at their own level. The school also wanted a master plan simple enough to complete on a small budget. Flansburgh struck a residential profile with a sequence of modular, cement-board-clad, glued-laminated timber structures with alternating shed roofs that face either the Mauna Kea volcano to the southeast or the Kohala Mountains to the northwest. Each module consists of one pair of alternating roofs. The modules combine into gently curving wedges that, as new buildings are added, will form a serpentine pattern around a “piko,” or central open space—the organizing principle of Hawaiian. As KALO grows, the school can reuse Flansburgh’s design and weave additional modules around the piko, shaping the buildings’ curves to follow the topography. Inside, the architects needed to devise a flexible classroom arrangement, since KALO dispensed with grade levels and, with them, predictable class sizes. The team designed the module interiors to repeat the piko concept, so that a pair of modules forms a large central classroom surrounded by smaller classrooms and the occasional office. With folding glass walls and glass doors dividing the spaces, the interior is more akin to an open, porch-like home than to the linear layout of a typical school corridor. The classrooms on the south and west facades open onto lanais, or verandas, that are supported by ohia wood structural columns resembling tree trunks. Red cedar sunscreens and ohia windscreens complete the school’s natural palette.

Completion Date: August 2012

Gross square footage: 15,300 gross square feet

Total construction cost: $6,858,656

Architect:
Flansburgh Architects
77 North Washington Street
Boston, MA 02114
T: 617-367-3970
F: 617-720-7873