Salk Middle School is the first new middle school in over two decades for Spokane Public Schools—the second largest school district in the state of Washington. The design focused on discovering a balance between their newly renovated high schools and elementary schools and creating a sense of scale and environment appropriate for middle school students. Clear programming was critical to make the wayfinding within the school intuitive and provide clear sight lines for administrators concerned about safety.
Given these priorities, the plan diagram is organized with a central promenade, running east-west, which overlooks the public spaces to the north and connects the three academic wings to the south. The academic wing layout allows the district to organize the school in a way that can evolve as the curriculum evolves, whether that is creating three academies by curriculum focus, or by grade level. Pods are sprinkled throughout the buildings to create neighborhoods within each wing, break down the scale of the building, and provide opportunities for alternative educational delivery.
The plan diagram is reinforced with a simple and clear material palette throughout the interior and exterior. Unique materials in key locations help to identify core circulation areas from resting, pod areas, and to differentiate between public and academic spaces on either side of the promenade.
Replacing the original 1961 school, the new middle school was constructed in multiple phases to allow the existing school to remain in operation. It opened its doors to students in the fall of 2017.