This tight-knit rural community in Southcentral Alaska is situated in the shadow of Mt. Denali, the tallest peak in North America. It is not unusual for students and families to spend free time rafting on nearby wild rivers, hunting for moose and bear, extreme skiing, or traversing long distances on snowmobiles. Their middle/high school was destroyed by fire one winter night. The shocked residents pulled together to participate in an inclusive design process of their new school that would reflect their unique lifestyle.
Cathy drew upon her love of nature and art to develop interior concepts embraced by the community. Elements of local stone and wood were used artfully, lighting fixtures were placed to emulate wild swans nests, and the tile wainscoting texture is reminiscent of the forest floor. The custom carpet references the meaning of the village name: Talkeetna, aDen’aina Indian word meaning “where three rivers meet."
Spiral Design also introduced new concepts in the furniture selections to further enhance the flexibility and multi-function use of the facility. Spiral Design’s site specific design included special snow board furniture for the Student Commons area to be constructed by the students from their used and abused but structurally sound snowbaords.
Spiral Design was tasked with development of school interiors incorporating the community’s strong connection to the outdoors and the art it inspires, while maintaining an environment that enhanced students’ learning and achievement. Meeting these multiple objectives required a skillful blend of collaboration and creativity.
Learning through Art and Nature was the learning signature of this unique community project and all interior elements used consistently supported this theme. Over 10% of the materials used were locally harvested and fabricated and the 50,750 s.f. Su Valley Middle/High School became the second LEED-certified school in the state.