McKinney York Architects

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AISD Sánchez Elementary Modernization

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Named after a pioneer of bilingual education, George I. Sánchez Elementary School was one of the first schools in the Austin Independent School District (AISD) to introduce two-way dual language learning. After a year-long community engagement process, the core values of Equity, Connectivity, and Flexibility were established for the modernization and renovation. Along with the importance of preserving existing cultural artifacts and iconography of the school, these core values gave rise to the theme of duality – English and Spanish; East and West; neighborhood and City; the past and the future – and the symbol of a double-headed serpent to serve as design inspiration. The communal gathering spaces – Dining, Fitness, Learning Stair and Library – are located at the center of the school, connected by a circulation spine which extends out to form covered canopies at the East and West entries. An internal courtyard was enclosed to create the Learning Stair, a versatile hub for small groups or classes with hexagonal niches and display areas to showcase artifacts or curl up with a book. The serpent manifests as an undulating, banded “snakeskin” sliding along the spine embracing the communal gathering spaces and extending through the roof to act as “billboard” to increase visibility to the broader community. Like a snake shedding its skin, it represents the growth and transformation of the students during their primary school years.

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