Westside School

Inspired transformation from 1970’s church to 21st century school

This creative adaptive re-use demonstrates that repurposing an old building can be a cost-effective, energy efficient and rewarding endeavor.

THE HILLCREST PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, located in a residential neighborhood southwest of downtown Seattle, found itself in an awkward position in 2012. Its congregation had decreased in size over the years, but remained in a large well-loved, but inefficient 1970s era facility. At the same time the nearby Westside School, a pre-K through eighth grade school serving 360 students, was about to lose its lease. A plan was born: the church would co-locate with another church nearby and sell its facility to the school to fund ongoing operations. The soaring, vaulted wood roof structures of the church would be resurrected as a school and new home for Westside.

As stewards of the next generation, Westside was committed to extensively reusing the existing church structure and minimizing the embodied energy used in new construction. The church’s soaring wishbone-shaped nave was the departure point for our imagination. Inspired by the soaring nave we preserved the 45’ glulam arches and reconfigured the space to accommodate classrooms, offices, support, lunchroom, and storage, preserving the existing gym. The challenge was to connect the existing structure to the new entry foyer in a way that communicates a sense of unity. The architecture provides a range of engaging learning environments. Idea spaces carved into the classrooms provide flex space for spontaneous meetings and informal, smaller, group learning. Other found spaces encourage interaction, creativity, and curiosity. The new entry forms a central, transparent gathering and display space where parents, faculty and students convene and connect. The unified structure embodies learning, linking the school’s present with its future and past.

“Westside School is now the most energy-efficient school in the Northwest region, created with an extremely small HVAC budget by concentrating on introducing energy efficiency where it would count the most. The report from the facilities manager is that this is the best system he has used in his 30 years at Seattle-area schools. The report from the staff and students is that they love their new building.” High Performing Buildings Report

Location   West Seattle
Status   Completed September 2015
Team   Gladys Ly Au Young (Principal in Charge), Wingyee Leung (Project Architect), Rick Sundberg, John Kennedy, Frances Nelson, Myra Lara, Nicole Lew (Graphics)
Size   55,000 SF (35,000 SF renovated / 20,000 SF new)
Press + Recognition   

High Performance Buildings – Winter 2017 Issue | From Church to School