Forward Thinking “Canopy” Wins Clark Nexsen 21st Century Urban High School Design Competition

21st Century Urban High School Competition Canopy entry submission

The 21st Century Urban High School Design Competition challenged Clark Nexsen designers to discover ways in which schools can open outward and welcome community engagement in safe and imaginative ways. CANOPY, the Virginia Beach team's entry, was selected as the winner on August 26 by a panel of nine jury members in architecture, education, safety, and public relations.

The competition asked participants to challenge current thoughts in high school design in creating a new 70,000 GSF multi-use urban high school on a site in downtown Greensboro, NC. The design brief noted that as populations in urban centers continue to grow, finding ways in which buildings can accommodate multiple uses will be an attractive choice for municipalities that is in keeping with sustainably oriented development.

Designs were required to incorporate teacher housing and amenity spaces shared between the community and the school to accommodate a variety of needs. The winning Virginia Beach team included Chris Barker, Scott Belcher, Alex Cejka, Rebecca Eastwood, Arjun Kainth, Mingfan Li, and Jiayi Shen.

21st Century Urban High School Competition Canopy entry submission

The Canopy entry “makes an impact on everyone in Greensboro, regardless of age, by promoting a holistic education focusing on the sharing of real-life skills to create a true connection with nature and the community within the city.” The winning design created a green to shield the underlying educational facility. This “living roof” flows over the site, establishing both physical connections to the city’s existing hubs and programmatic layers which revolutionize the approach to education.

With submissions ranging from futuristic to practical, the jury felt that Canopy occupied the middle ground. They found Canopy adaptable to changing curriculum while pushing the envelope in an intriguing way and appreciated the design's strong community inclusion and approach to sustainability. “I love the boldness of this scheme. It may not be easy or cost effective to build but innovation is driven by big ideas,” one juror commented.

View the entry Canopy and the other submissions Loom, East Market, and neoModus.

About the Clark Nexsen Combustion Chamber Ideas Competition
Combustion Chamber, in conjunction with Clark Nexsen's K-12 Education practice, developed the second annual design competition, 21st Century Urban High School Competition, centered on learning institutions as community resources within the context of an urban environment. A panel of external jurors included professionals from the planning and educational sectors including Betty Parker and Bill Fletcher from the Wake County Public School System and Kristina Anderson, Executive Director of the Koshka Foundation for Safe Schools.

The inaugural Clark Nexsen Combustion Chamber Ideas Competition, initiated in 2018 through relationships between colleagues and Duke University alumni, challenged entrants to reconsider the future of international graduate student housing on Duke’s Central Campus. Four entries were developed and critiqued by a jury by external experts including architects and facilities representatives from top institutions such as Harvard University, Virginia Tech, and The University of Chicago.