When The Girls’ School of Austin approached Haddon + Cowan about designing a new campus, the school wanted to preserve the feel of the old campus, a series of mid-century buildings surrounded by trees, as much as possible. The outdoor walkways, abundant natural light, and old growth trees were a beloved part of the school – but other elements, including a dearth of needed programming space, structural issues, and a lack of accessibility for individuals with disabilities, needed to change.
Haddon + Cowan gathered input from the community both within and outside the school, including neighbors who live near the Central Austin campus, teachers, parents, board members, and students. Based on those responses and working within zoning restrictions, they designed a campus that honored the feel of the former space while adding much-needed facilities.
The new campus, which was awarded an AEGB 4-Star rating and featured in Texas Architect, added a second story to part of the main building, reconfigured the u-shape so that the campus’ five buildings connect to each other via outdoor connections and breezeways, and incorporates outdoor classroom space.
A split-level design accommodates the hillside, while a stepped riparian stream built into the sloping property also keeps runoff from eroding the soil.
A mix of brick and glass on the exterior makes for a simple but sleek palette that also lets ample amounts of natural light into the buildings. A bamboo forest that had to be removed is echoed in the poles along the façade, while the layout of the new campus also allowed the school to preserve most of its existing trees.
Many of the students included tree houses on their wish list, and roof decks that are nestled among tree tops allowed a treehouse-like atmosphere to be part of the new campus. Those spaces are complemented by roof gardens that augment science classes.