Highland Middle School

Middle School

Highland Middle School has a unique blend of student and community influences. The diverse and inclusive student population is characterized by a wide range of ethnicities, challenging socio-economic conditions and diverse physical abilities/conditions. This school has the most ethnically diverse population within the District, where students hear languages other than English as the primary language at home. The school also addresses the needs of the physically and behaviorally disabled population through the Pacific Program. The context and diverse array of needs at Highland demanded thoughtful consideration of how architecture could support social and educational growth.

The new Highland Middle School provides educational transparency and collaboration, including spatial and programmatic access to a diverse array of learning experiences and settings. Educational settings include visual and physical access to various natural and social surroundings. Figurative and physical dead-ends are avoided so the whole learning community is part of a connected pathway. Within this continuous loop, classroom groupings of 3 -5 are utilized to create connected and collaborative stations for identity and concentration. STEAM program space is integrated within the groupings to increase student exposure to hands-on, project-based science, art, and technical activities. The building and settings are structured and playful to allow each student to cultivate their interests and find their passion, with connections to indoor and outdoor learning environments. Seven Learner Profiles (Honest, Caring, Problem Solvers, Resilient, Growth Minded, Communicators, and Self-Aware) are highlighted at each educational grouping to provide interactive engagements throughout the building blending bilingual messages and graphic interfaces.

“We value a high variety of learning experiences, programs, clubs, services for students and families. Partnerships in and for the community are important. Community, empathy, inclusion, and breaking down barriers. We value connections with families; the new building should invite them. We value collaboration, among teachers and staff, among students, among parents and community.”

The school makes great efforts to engage and support families to mitigate outside impact on children and their ability to learn. A clinic, the Jubilee outreach program, and a Family Connection Center are provided within the school to address fundamental needs. This allows the school to serve as a vital community resource and provide space for multiple aspects of learning and awareness. Beyond addressing fundamental needs and creating capacity for learning, these additive resources and activities support familiarity with school and learning while encouraging parental engagement as a fundamental aspect of improved student success.

Highland is located on a busy arterial and a site with a significant grade change. The street provides good opportunities for presence and identity while creating a welcoming front along the arterial to designate a safe and identifiable school frontage. The site topography and learning settings are woven together. The building represents different ways space and form can engage with surroundings  – by setting into the hillside, on the ground at access points, and hovering over the site – providing different perspectives on the site, building, and learning environments. Sustainability is incorporated through passive and active means. The building’s performance is optimized with a strong east to west longitudinal orientation. The instructional wings are narrowed to improve the penetration of daylight and views to the outdoors. A photovoltaic array, solar hot water heating, super insulated envelope, ground source loop, and chilled beam HVAC system are key features that contribute to the building’s efforts towards environmental responsibility.

The new building represents the positive spirit and awareness of the community, student body and staff through connection to programs, site and different spacial experiences. A building that serves its civic purpose while providing a warm, integrated and serene learning atmosphere.

Additional design insights may be found in the following Project Overview:


Client: Bellevue School District

Location: Bellevue, WA

Size: 180,497 SF