Spring 2002

That year, Seattle Public Schools began a partnership with the New School Foundation to redevelop a former middle school as an innovative K-8 learning environment in an impoverished, ethnically diverse neighborhood. The Foundation asked CEEDS to hold a weekend charrette to develop ideas for using the space temporarily while an architecture firm developed plans for a complete renovation.

CEEDS organized design teams consisting of students, faculty, practitioners, community members, and school district representatives, tasking the group with designing a space—to be built on a very limited budget—, that would:
Enhance children’s understanding of the neighborhood’s cultural diversity.
Welcome parents and community members.
Compensate for the lack of natural light in the space.

Design teams used the school’s slogan—“I am a bright spirit on a magnificent journey”—, as their inspiration, proposing that the space be reminiscent of a street in the city or a river in nature. After the charrette, volunteer architects integrated these ideas into a single design, and then volunteer builders used inexpensive, recycled materials to install the design.

They hung fabric swatches from the ceiling to create colorful pools of light. They used recycled tubes to turn columns into "trees" and create “front porches” for classrooms. They painted a large fish on a wall, covering it with wavy translucent panels so it looked like a fish swimming in water. For two years, four- to six-year-olds occupied the space, continuing the placemaking process by adding their own ideas to the temporary structures.

By fall 2009, the building had been fully renovated.