Home Building at Thaden School
The Home building is a central link at Thaden School, a new high school campus in Bentonville, Arkansas, where students learn by doing. The building, much like the extended campus, strives to establish an innovative vision for the future, while reflecting the rich, pastoral heritage of the surrounding landscape.
After first leading the completion of the Master Plan for Thaden (a collaboration with Marlon Blackwell Architects, Andropogon, and CMTA), EDR was tasked with designing the Home Building, the heart of all student activities on campus. The project involved determining how to use common materials and methods (ubiquitous even) to create an uncommon result. Employing techniques typically found in residential design, the design team pushed the form to its limit, cranking open the floor plan to create porches and courtyards and gently sloping the roof up to a dramatic 38’ peak in the center. Here, the roof plane enshrouds the simple gable form of the dining hall. The building takes visual cues from the region itself, with board and batten facades and all wood construction incorporating the beauty of local, vernacular architecture.
The home building is the central ligature supporting all of campus life. Beyond the physical centrality of its location, the building simultaneously represents a social and spiritual center for students. As the hearth of the campus, the Home building providing an expansive dining hall, where all of campus comes together for meals, a teaching kitchen, the student bookstore, a library, and several unstructured lounge and study spaces. In the dining hall, the team worked to celebrate the material technology within. A veil of poplar slats mounted underneath enormous truss frames reveal, rather than conceal, the structural design and bring a deep warmth to a space intended for breaking bread together.
In the library, which shares an outdoor view to nearby campus buildings, providing students a visual connection to the bustle of campus even while in quiet study.
The teaching kitchen is one of the truly unique spaces in the Home building, one that deeply espouses the school’s “learning by doing” mantra. Key to this notion was the inclusion of a large viewing window into the actual kitchen helmed by the school’s culinary staff, where all student and staff meals are prepared.
The dynamic architecture of the Home building stretches across the landscape, bending and wrapping to define a new kind of campus, creating a network of outdoor spaces of varying scales, textures, and uses that interact with the diverse interior spaces. An ever-present “water lab” detains a majority of rainwater on site, while simultaneously providing a unique opportunity for students to learn via their surroundings
The Water Lab, a stormwater retention feature integrated into the Home Building
A skyward opening punctures the roof of the outdoor courtyard where students frequently congregate outside the dining hall. Throughout the project, the design team worked to reconcile what was a sometimes contradictory notion: lofty ambitions of the building’s design, with the humble nature of local, vernacular architecture.