Arlington Elementary School

Tacoma Public Schools, Tacoma, WA

Designing a space for natural outdoor play in the community.

Market

K-12 Schools

Services

Civil Engineering

Landscape Architecture

Features

“Vision for the Elementary Learning Environment” document

Replacement school on same site

Inclusive playground

Pinnacle Award, A4LE PNW Region

People's Choice Award, A4LE PNW Region

Designing a space for natural outdoor play in the community.

AHBL’s civil engineers and landscape architects collaborated on the design for a new Pre-K through fifth grade elementary school in Tacoma. The school district envisioned the school serving as a centerpiece for the community. Combining indoor and outdoor learning environments was a key goal for this project and each unique and secure courtyard allows for teachers to use the outdoors as additional teaching space. Through a collaborative, iterative process, our landscape architects’ site plan maximized the use of the full site, and capitalized on the natural topography for play areas including a slide hill, rolling hill, boulder scramble and natural stone steps.

To provide a comfortable space for all students, inclusive play was emphasized in the design. Passive areas are adjacent to active play to foster connection for students who aren’t comfortable jumping into active play. This arrangement allows them to feel involved while still being within a defensible space. Unprogrammed spaces help to integrate play into everyday student life.

The school is located on an area where the forest originally met with prairie habitats, so the planting plan utilizes our northwest native forest plants and meadows. As some kids in this area do not have an opportunity to interact with nature on a daily basis, extra effort was put into achieving a sense of nature throughout the site. Site improvements include a covered play structure, a playfield, various playground and pedestrian access improvements, and frontage improvements. The school opened in fall 2017.