Phoenix Union Bioscience High School
The Phoenix Union Bioscience High School is an architectural response to a school district’s incredible vision. From the beginning, Phoenix Union High School District saw the potential for their existing two-acre school site to become a radically new kind of science-focused high school. It’s ideally located in the center of the emerging genomics research district in the heart of Phoenix, adjacent to a thriving arts neighborhood, and just a few blocks from Arizona State University’s downtown campus.
The primary educational goal was “to provide for highly personalized student and staff relationships within a rigorous and relevant science-centered curriculum where choice and independence increase as students progress from grades 9–12”.
The program result is a three story building for 400 students featuring six labs (one a replica of the neighboring TGEN labs), one outdoor lab, nine flexible classrooms, four large open ‘student studio’ areas with individual work stations, tables for break out and collaboration, and a ‘town square’ space for presentations, dining, and events. In addition, in order to provide a full comprehensive curriculum, art, music, and exercise rooms are also provided.
Interaction and collaboration are encouraged through the use of flexible teaching spaces; classrooms are open and can be adapted to large and small groups through the creative arrangement of rolling marker boards and flexible furnishings. By design, teacher workrooms are visually accessible to students, encouraging team teaching and student-teacher interaction throughout the day.
Everything about Bioscience is designed to be a teaching tool. Fossils are cast into the large east and west facing concrete walls to show geological time relationships and also illustrate environmentally appropriate (windowless) orientation for solar exposure in the Sonoran desert. The three-story Town Square space is illuminated with light that is focused onto large reflective disks mounted 30’ above the ground. Structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire sprinkler, and data systems are unabashedly expressed in the building. Solar panels provide hot water to the labs, urinals are waterless, and lighting is controlled by occupancy sensors. The great stair in the Town Square is suspended from the roof structure above by cables. Large glass overhead doors open to the desert courtyard for special events that can extend over to the amphitheater.
Everything is open, connected to the whole, flexible, and can be manipulated by the occupants.