Zócalo, referring to the concept of the central plaza in Mexico, was the emerging theme in the design research process for the new facility at Tillicum, said Principal James Peterson.  It was “that sense of community and everything coming together,” that inspired the vision for the school, he said.  The theme’s connection to a Spanish term is a nod to the school’s award-winning advanced language program.

Two years ago the school formed a design team to gather feedback from staff, students and families on what was important to them in the new building.  “We wanted a model that would feel welcoming and open to all, and would incorporate our natural, park-like setting,” said Barbara Ghaffari office manager and design team member.

The design team heard presentations from several architecture firms and ultimately selected NAC.  “It was evident that our voice was clear in their presentation for us,” said Assistant Principal Duke Truong.  “They seemed to speak to our needs at an individual, local and community level.”

Since the selection process, the architecture firm has continued to work with the design team to incorporate ongoing feedback.  “The architects have done a good job hearing our input and then responding to it,” said Peterson.

The new 170,000 square foot building will be nearly double the size of the existing school and all hallways will lead to the main plaza area, or student commons.  Taking advantage of the topography of the existing site, the three-story state-of-the-art building will feature flexible STEM and engineering labs, a music suite, CTE and art rooms, and a gym and athletic area.  Each floor will also have planning spaces for teachers.

“The design supports a collaborative environment and encourages creative thinking and problem solving,” said Bellevue School District Construction Manager Jim O’Malley.

The focal point of the building will be a two-story enclosed atrium, adjacent to the school’s commons.  The atrium will be inspiring and peaceful for students, said Peterson.  It will have a garden and an abundant amount of natural light that will be distributed throughout the school.

The building will be constructed with community use in mind, as well as creating a school that is adaptable for years to come.  Tillicum’s facilities are utilized by the community in several capacities.  Chinese school is held in the building on Saturdays, and numerous sports teams use the athletic fields on the weekends.  The design team aimed to maintain the functionality of the building for the community use, while still creating a ‘home’ for the Tillicum school community, said David Jensen, sixth grade teacher.

The design phase will continue through the 2015-16 school year and construction will begin summer 2016.  Students will attend the district’s swing site Ringdall for two years and return to the new facility in fall 2018.

“The new building is going to be gorgeous,” said Peterson.  “At Tillicum we’ve got such a fabulous property with beautiful trees, and the small rolling hills, just adjacent to the park as well as our connection to Phantom Lake.  I think that the new building in this spot will help bring all of those elements together in one more cohesive fashion where it’s just going to blend in with the rest of the community and environment.”