Pennsylvania Architects and Architecture Earn National Honors for Designs that Enhance Learning

The American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Committee on Architecture for Education (CAE) has recognized 13 projects for state-of-the-art designs of schools and learning centers. Complete details for each project are available on AIA’s website.

The Education Facility Design Award jury selected four facilities for its Awards of Excellence and seven projects for its Awards of Merit. Designs must meet a host of criteria, including enhancing learning in classrooms; balancing function with aesthetics; establishing a connection with the environment; being respectful of the surrounding community; demonstrating high-level planning in the design process; and integrating sustainability in a holistic fashion.

Two projects by Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, founded in Wilkes-Barre with three Pennsylvania offices, are honored with a 2023 Education Facility Design Award.

The University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Siebel Center for Design was one of four projects to be honored with an Award of Excellence. The Siebel Center for Design is one of the first ground-up interdisciplinary design schools of its kind, built to encourage a collaborative approach to problem solving­­––combining design thinking, experimentation, prototyping, and making. The 60,000 square-foot project provides light filled, technology-enabled, and easily reconfigurable spaces to help students find the ideal setting and tools to suit their creative needs. Strategies for well-being, resource efficiency, and equity were integral to the project’s LEED Gold design. The project was recently honored with an AIA Pennsylvania Architectural Excellence Award.

A second Bohlin Cywinski Jackson design was recognized with an Award of Merit. The Kent State University, Design Innovation Hub is an adaptive re-use of a 1970s-era former art building at the center of campus. The 78,000 square-foot DI Hub houses a range of labs, makerspaces, tools and technologies to serve every step of the creative process. 

The K-12 design for Ehrman Crest Elementary and Middle School by CannonDesign was selected for an Award of Merit. Hailed a “Future School” and one of Time Magazine’ best inventions of 2022, the design for the Seneca Valley School District near Pittsburgh explores the intersection of elementary schools and children’s museums. The school district and the team closely collaborated with the senior director of creative experiences at the Children’s Museum in Pittsburgh. Unlike other projects with specific rooms and spaces that mimic a museum, this project has embedded the concept throughout the entire school. 

Image credits (left to right): Kent State University, Design Innovation Hub/Ed Massery, Ehrman Crest Elementary and Middle School/Laura Peters,  Siebel Center for Design/Jeff Totaro