UO architecture students helping Portland schools with building redesign program

UO architecture students, in a recent design symposium with Portland Public Schools, captured new ideas in school design from speakers internationally renowned for their expertise in innovative school design.

Portland is beginning an eight-year program to upgrade its school infrastructure following a voter-approved building improvement bond.

“Portland has begun to rebuild all of its schools. Most are fifty to 100 years old, unsafe, outdated, and have poor teaching and learning places,” said Gerry Gast, UO architecture professor. During summer 2015, ground was broken on the first of these new schools, part of a 32-year plan to rebuild all of Portland Public Schools’ eighty-five schools.

Next Generation Schools Design Symposium
Above, left to right: Barbara Crum, Perkins+Will, Atlanta; Juana Salcedo, El Equipo Mazzanti, Bogota, Colombia; Ilkka Salminen, Verstas Architects, Helsinki, Finland; and John Weekes FAIA, DOWA/IBI, Portland, Oregon at the Next Generation Schools Design Symposium. Photo by Kyle Elliott.

Gast, named in fall 2015 to serve on the Lincoln High School Master Planning Committee, planned the Next Generation Schools Symposium, held April 9 at Lincoln High School. The intent was to gain valuable insights and design concepts from experts in school design.

Gast brought in speakers including keynote speaker John Weeks, FAIA, (DOWA | IBI, Portland, Oregon), who has been involved with the design of Sandy High School, Wilsonville High School, Redmond High School, and Rosa Parks Elementary (all in Oregon). He has also served as a school-building consultant to the Chinese government.

Presenters at the symposium included Barbara Crum (Perkins + Will, Atlanta, Georgia), whose firm specialized in designing great schools for poor neighborhoods. Presenter Juana Salcedo (El Equipo Massanti, Bogota, Columbia), a principal and design research director, is recognized for expertise in designing schools of beauty and functionality in very poor neighborhoods of Central America. Presenter Ilkka Salminen (Verstas Architects, Helsinki, Finland), founded his firm and comes from a country lauded for both its educational systems and phenomenal school architecture.

Students and reviewers discuss design concepts
Above: Students and reviewers discuss design concepts for Portland Public Schools. Photo by Sabina Poole.

As co-chair of Next Generation Schools Design Symposium along with co-chairs Eleni Kehagiaras and Stuart Emmons, Gast hopes to provide inspiration and ideas to the master planners of the school rebuilds and redesigns. Kehagiaras is co-chair of the Lincoln High School Master Plan Committee and chair of the Lincoln High School Long-Range Development Committee for Portland Public Schools. Emmons is an architect in Portland (Emmons Design) and current candidate for city commissioner.

“The public is invited to all [master plan committee] meetings and the Lincoln community is highly engaged and involved, so [Gast] should expect community members to reach out to him regarding the committee and its work,” said Portland Public Schools Superintendent Carole Smith. Smith recruited Gast to serve on the Lincoln High School Master Plan Committee.

Gast has also involved his students in a related thesis studio, which has students working directly with principals, students, and school planners. Lincoln High School principal Payton Chapman was a reviewer at the studio’s winter 2016 reviews. The students will present further designs to school principals during spring 2016 final reviews. Gast hopes the students will continue to be involved in the project as their designs could have an influential impact on the master plans.

In addition to the Next Generation Schools Design Symposium, the planning for the schools’ redesign also incorporates hundreds of community members, students, and school staff in numerous public planning sessions attended by Gast’s students.

Above: Students in Professor Gast's thesis studio meet with Jefferson High School Vice Principal Ricky Allen. Photo by Professor Gast.