“It teaches kids how to respect nature by respecting nature. It retreats every time it sees a tree — and then it scales back in just one volume. And the other volume keeps on going further down, and they start playing. It’s like a dance with the trees.”
— Paola Calzada

Location San Antonio
Client San Antonio Zoological Society
Architect Lake|Flato Architects
Design Team Greg Papay, FAIA, Trey Rabke, Clay Cottingham, Heather Holdridge, Assoc. AIA
Contractor Guido Construction
Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing Engineer DBR
Structural Engineer Datum Engineers
Civil Engineer Pape-Dawson Engineers
Wayfinding MN Design
Landscape Architect Rialto Studio

The design for this new preschool facility renovated an existing 20,000-sf building and added classrooms to support a nature-based curriculum, with nearly half of the teaching spaces integrated into the surrounding landscape. Abandoning the pre-existing double-loaded corridor, the architects created classrooms spanning the full width of the building and moved student circulation outdoors, providing abundant access to views, daylight, and natural ventilation even on the interior. The outdoor spaces mix ad hoc creative spaces with hands-on structured spaces to create interest and excitement while accommodating learning differences. The school uses the environmental attributes of the LEED Platinum building and site to compose lessons for the students in habitat, natural material, energy, and water conservation.

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