A rich heritage: the Lamplighter School Innovation Lab
Marlon Blackwell Architects
Initially designed by O'Neil Ford in the late 1960s, the Lamplighter School enjoys a rich architectural heritage. Ford worked hand-in-hand with the School's founders to realize their vision for a unique learning environment highlighted by open learning spaces, a close relationship with nature, and a "village" composition. The architecture reflects the School's teaching and learning styles and is complemented by the additions Frank Welch designed in the 1980s and 1990s. Since its founding the school has provided a unique learning environment for pre-kindergarten to fourth grade students. The curriculum is focused on engaging students with their surroundings, inspiring them to explore, discover, take risks, and make choices. The pedagogy of the school creates independent and responsible students, forever learners who follow their passions. With this mission in mind the school needed to develop a new facility that addressed the shifting focuses of education. Science, technology, engineering and mathematics were all areas that the school wished to expand programs, focusing on how to engage students with these areas of study in a collaborative learning environment
In 2014, the campus was re-envisioned by the design team including reorganization of the site, renovations of the existing building, and the addition of new structures. At the outset of the project the Innovation Lab was simply described as a hands-on learning laboratory for the school’s 450 students. Through the programming phase the Innovation Lab was conceived as a series of open collaborative spaces tailored around various focuses, inviting students to explore rather than be instructed. The design process with teachers and administrators clarified the hybridization of STEM principles with the existing curriculum shaping the Innovation Lab and melding technology and the schools cooperative learning curriculum under one roof. The lab is the heart of the master plan clarifying the organization of the campus and connecting the new and existing exterior and interior learning spaces. Programmed with hands-on learning classrooms, including a woodshop, robotics lab, and teaching kitchen, the building suggests a holistic approach to design, systems, and learning with a relationship to the natural environment. Filled with light and reaching out to the landscape, the Innovation Lab contributes to the vitality of the existing campus of buildings and spaces, while establishing a 21st Century identity.
The Innovation Lab is wrapped in copper and lined with cypress wood planks at the exterior porches and interior ceiling, introducing a refined, yet warm and lasting material palette that complements the original campus buildings. The dynamic form defines open interiors that compress and expand under the pitch and roll of the roof to accommodate varying classroom volumes and programs. A single bend in plan aligns the exterior walls with significant campus features and provides entrances at the east and west. At this splay, a third entry from the south is dropped low to the scale of a student. The form then expands upward to the primary interior space, a teaching kitchen, establishing spatial hierarchy at the intersection of the east-west axis through the building. The enhancement of the Lamplighter School campus continues even after the completion of the Innovation Lab. Phase 2 (Completion 2022) is an interior renovation to the existing building with two strategic additions reconfiguring administrative and teaching spaces. Additionally, work will extend broadly across the campus, improving, refining, and securing the movement of students, pedestrians, and their vehicles; establishing a more direct and intuitive connection to the natural world for all users. These strategic additions and renovations to the entire campus cultivate a didactic environment that strengthens the School’s original mission.
The Lamplighter School
Marlon Blackwell Architects
Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, Meryati Blackwell, AIA, ASID, LEED AP BD+C, Bradford Payne, AIA, Spencer Curtis, Assoc. AIA, Stephen Reyenga, Assoc. AIA, Cydney Jaggers, Assoc. AIA, Stephen Kesel, AIA, Kertis Weatherby, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Jonathan Boelkins, AIA
Hill & Wilkinson
Raymond L. Goodson Jr., Reed, Wells, Benson and Company, Talley Associates, Essential Light Design Studio
Marlon Blackwell Architects is an agile, full-service design firm located in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Our belief that architecture can happen anywhere, at any scale, at any budget - for anyone - drives us to challenge the conventions and models that often obscure other possibilities. We use an economy of means to deliver a maximum of meaning in places where architecture is often not expected to be found.
Established in 1992, Marlon Blackwell Architects is committed to the value of design. Led by Marlon Blackwell, selected recipient of the 2020 AIA Gold Medal, we have a successful history of generating and implementing visions for multi-scale projects throughout the country. In every instance, we strive to express the richness of the places we work and the ideals of the people and institutions we serve.