Location: Hudsonville, Michigan
Unity Christian High School is an independent 9-12 high school community with a reputation for strong college and workforce preparation. In 1999 the constituent community voted to purchase an 80-acre parcel and began the master planning process to relocate the school from an existing structure that was inadequate for the new programs and educational expectations for classroom space, technology, cafeteria and constituent community gathering spaces. This process was a truly grassroots effort to raise $22,000,000 of private funds that took sixteen years to complete and opened its doors in August 2015. The vision, goals and objectives of the design remained unswerving – build a building that builds community.The central heart of the school is a communal space for social and educational interaction reinforcing the design principles. Developed via a collaborative, student based design Charrette, this two story multipurpose commons space accommodates a variety of group sizes and activities. Students, teachers and community come to meet, collaborate, study, participate in active learning, eat and gather for events taking place in the adjacent multipurpose gym and worship chapel.The community’s request to steward their financial resources required a design that would be innovative and efficient in the use of materials. This resulted in a playful mixture of raw materials such as concrete, steel, overhead doors, exposed utilities and pre-cast insulated panels, softened by the use of daylight, natural wood, vibrant colors and flexible furnishings.Materials and furnishings were sourced locally and helped create this softer feel throughout, while building on the school’s strong sense of local community. Textured precast concrete panels were made by a local pre-caster that wanted to showcase exterior treatments made with a bed liner that simulated wood grain. Local furnishings were sourced to provide flexibility with different heights, configurations and ease of reconfiguration.