Designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and executive architect Leo A Daly, the Heights building in Arlington, Virginia, is now open. The building merges two existing secondary schools into a new 16,723-m2 (180,000-sf) structure.
The Heights opens as a cascade of green terraces fanning from a central axis. The one-story school is conceived as a stack of five rectangular floorplates rotating around a fixed pivot point. Green terraces above each floor become an extension of the classroom, creating an indoor-outdoor learning landscape. A rotating central staircase cuts through the interior of the building to connect the four-tiered terraces.
Inside, students, teachers, and staff are greeted by a triple-height lobby with stepped seating doubling as an indoor gathering space.
The classroom bars serve as primary organizing elements, surrounding a central vertical core containing the elevators, stairs, and bathrooms. As students enter from the central staircase, they are greeted by an expanded gradient of the color spectrum—each classroom bar is defined by its own color, combining intuitive wayfinding.
The Heights’ exterior is materialized in a white glazed brick to unify the five volumes and highlight the oblique angles of the fanning classroom bars. In keeping with the surrounding neighborhood, the building’s material palette pays homage to the historical architecture of its location.
The Heights is on track to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold.