Grant High School
Brief: How might modern schools embrace students’ connected lives to support teaching and learning? The complete redesign and renovation of a local high school requires an integrated digital experience strategy.
Process: Alongside the architectural design process, we interviewed stakeholders to discuss technology solutions, the different users’ experience, and content opportunities for major public spaces within the school.
Outcome: Widespread support from the community and staff has led to a collaboration with a local creative agency to explore next steps for building, scaling, and maintaining a culture of celebrating students’ digital media.
Role: Engagement strategist, interior designer, user experience advocate, lead campaign & fundraiser
Read more about the design process of Grant High School below, or check out more of my work samples:
Grant High School Modernization, Portland Public Schools
This is the story of a historic high school modernization, a massive building renovation to elevate learning spaces, nurture its inclusive culture, expand its capacity, and celebrate nationally recognized programs. At 292,365 GSF and over a dozen consultants on the project team, this is the largest, most complex project that I’ve worked on during my time at Mahlum Architects. The community captured my heart and spurred a digital display side project with their staff, students, and community mentors. The modernized facility is designed to house 1,700 students in grades nine through twelve. It is on target to be a LEED Silver Certified school and will open in the fall of 2019.
The original building was completed in 1923 with subsequent massive additions in the 50s & 70s. The modernization project is organized with respect to the historic plans for expansion. By demolishing irrelevant additions to the site and gutting the entire interior of the historic complex, the design team was able to prioritize connecting key learning environments to open green spaces.
In order to craft a singular, unifying statement for Grant, we needed to understand what makes GHS unique from other PPS high schools. Stakeholder groups were asked to consider their ideal learning environment, what learning could look like in 50 years, and how bold they would be on a variety of cultural and spatial spectrums. One pivotal outcome of these initial conversations was the goal to have 100% inclusive toileting throughout the school, a transformative initiative which garnered national media attention.
In tandem with design principal JoAnn Wilcox, I developed a unique collaborative design process involving District staff, the Design Advisory Group (DAG), project stakeholders, teachers, students and the community.
Our team gathered both quantitative and qualitative information from the wide variety of constituents through a series of meetings, interviews, observation sessions, activities, precedent tours and community workshops, some with over 100 participants in attendance. We developed interactive tools to gather feedback with the aim of identifying needs and prioritizing goals. I developed the following activities which have since become standard practice at the firm and shared at regional conferences: Field Guide for Tours, Heart vs. Dollar Tradeoff, Design a Major Event, Spectrums, Asset Map, Rankings, Day in the Life in 2065.
User Experience Design
For me, the project took off when we heard from stakeholders about their perceptions of what makes a school “modern.” Local media became interested in how the school would be equitable, accessible, and modernized. Some parents wanted to start over with steel and glass. Others wanted the project to honor the past. We started with the idea to celebrate their 100 year legacy by displaying digitized historic team photos that were originally mounted throughout the hallways spanning 4 generations.
As the concept grew and we were creating the complete audiovisual package for the school, we continued to learn from conversations with notable community members such as Tinker Hatfield, the Grant Alumni Association, and local creative agencies about hardware, software, content, infrastructure and integration.
Luckily, Grant’s journalism and digital media courses already produce an award-winning publication, Grant Magazine, which lives online. This nationally recognized, award winning media- rich monthly publication is the soul of the school, illustrating their dynamic culture from gender issues and family dynamics to politics and racial tensions, digging deep into perspectives of Gen Z.
GRANT STUDENTS HAVE RISEN TO THE CHALLENGE OF CREATING AND CURATING AUTHENTIC, MEANINGFUL CONTENT WHICH IS FULL OF YOUTHFUL, PROVOCATIVE QUESTIONING.
One student is producing his own drone videos of the construction. Furthermore, our design team has discussed ways to incorporate point cloud data from the original school into an augmented reality experience, made available while walking through the renovated building. From all the feedback we’ve had so far, we are certain that this abundance of high quality content must be part of the everyday experience of this school.
While the digital displays project has become the central focus for me, it was always on top of my standard responsibilities as an architect on this project. Over the two years it took for our team of 15 (at our peak) to complete this project from masterplan to construction documentation, I contributed to: community visioning, programming, schematic design, proof of concept reports, synthesis, graphic design, ongoing engagement strategy, LEED requirements, custom casework details, inclusive toilet design, lighting design, plumbing coordination, and team morale.
This project would never have been possible without each of these outstanding team members at Mahlum, who include: Diane Shiner, JoAnn Wilcox, Alyssa Leeviraphan, Chris Brown, LeRoy Landers, Rene Berndt, Amy Noe, Mike Kolander, Yasu Yanagisawa, Jeremey Thompson, Stephen Endy, Ben Taylor, Bryan Hollar, Andrew Weller-Gordon, Pip Allen, & Keyna Mulvaney.