Case Study

Project: C. Mark Openshaw Education Center Utah School for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) Salt Lake Campus

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Client: C. Mark Openshaw Education Center

Location: Millcreek, Utah

Year: 2017

The C. Mark Openshaw Education Center is a new campus for the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. Located in Millcreek, Utah, the school provides specialty education classes and services for blind and visually impaired, deaf-blind, and deaf and hard of hearing early childhood students. The building and site were designed as a seamless expression, providing a unique indoor/outdoor experience to help meet the needs of the students. 

The C. Mark Openshaw Education Center shares a site with an existing middle school for deaf and blind students. A small playfield and traditional playground are shared by both, bringing younger and older students together on a unified campus. The new building provides classrooms and learning areas for younger children, with the adjacent landscape designed as an exterior extension of the classrooms. 

Landmark Design worked with a team of architects, engineers and educational representatives to create a landscape that provides engaging educational, play and learning experiences as part an integrated outdoor environment. The landscape was designed with the needs of the students first and foremost, while taking into account the needs of faculty, staff, parents and visitors. The project required extensive communication with educational experts to ensure the specialized requirements, challenges and constraints of the distinct user groups were understood and reflected in the design. This allowed Landmark Design staff to develop specific solutions as a part of a unified design vision. 

The design focuses on the development of attractive and inviting public spaces near the entrances and drop-off zones. The interior courtyard consists of a series of linked “play gardens”, with one half of the courtyard designed to meet the special play and outdoor education needs of deaf students, and the other half the needs of visually impaired students. The distinct forms “break down” in the middle of the cloister allowing the two groups to meet and play together.

The landscape was designed according to the High-Performance Building Standard (HPBS) utilized by the Utah Division of Facilities Construction and Management. In addition to promoting the use of water-wise and local materials and solutions, the landscape design also incorporates sustainable maintenance and design practices. A large existing playground was documented, dissembled prior to construction, redesigned for a new location and re-purposed as part of a “super playground” for young and older students alike. The rehabilitated was paid f primarily through fund-raising efforts, which has resulted in a strong sense of pride, emotional value and a sense of ownership by the donors.

An outdoor amphitheater is located immediately adjacent to the front entrance of the building that is linked with an interior stage, providing a seamless indoor/outdoor connection. The design of the amphitheater is also linked with the sports fields, playground and a range of gardens and courtyards, resulting in flexible and dynamic activity zones. The various gardens, entry courts and courtyards were purposefully designed to engage as many senses as possible. For example, the interior courtyard included tactile signals to help sight-challenged students learn how to navigate city streets.

Awards

Utah Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects
Award of Merit (2017)

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