Orcutt Winslow
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Contagious Spirit of Collaboration

Cherokee Elementary School

Paradise Valley, AZ

Through a robust visioning and community engagement process, the Cherokee Design Team reached out to the experts to get design input: the students, the teachers and the community in general, including parents, neighbors and District representatives. Everyone interested in the best Cherokee was welcomed and heard. The design for the replacement of Cherokee Elementary started with a study of what makes the current campus unique and so well-liked. A logical place to explore for inspiration is to define the unique qualities and to bring those forward through the design of the replacement campus.

What was identified as distinct goals were: A Garden and Courtyard Style Campus (Desire for connection to nature), Pods creating small communities for the different age groups, Call back to bring Arizona’s first literary landmark.

The Design team designed a concept to provide both living and architectural adaptations, abstracted the overall concept for Cherokee as a nurse plant. Young saguaros often begin life under a nurse plant, specifically a Palo Verde tree. Saguaros are extremely slow-growing and fragile in their earliest years. Much like the cacti locating themselves in the shelter of the Palo Verde canopy, students will be able to look to Cherokee as their nurse plant.

Overall, Cherokee is Designed for a maximum capacity of 780-800 students, Significant changes to the allowed the queuing lane to accommodate more vehicles during drop-off and pick-up. The design retains the existing solar panels, the parking underneath those panels and the bus loop! The student population is broken down by age clusters, with a central collaboration pod at each cluster! The arrangement of the buildings allows for outdoor learning opportunities at various levels! The majority of the building is oriented to maximize passive solar design. All but three classrooms have either south or north-facing windows, which are much easier to protect. With a collaborative process that equals its unique and unparalleled design, Cherokee Elementary School Reinvents itself and the way future schools should be designed. In more ways than one, this school teaches lessons to all that step within its unique and amazing community.