Casis Elementary School

Austin, Texas

An aging campus was replaced with a modern, 93,000-square-foot school designed to support the district’s learning initiatives and maintain long-standing connections between the school, community and nature. Learning environments are shaped around collaboration spaces and flexible work areas, as well as connections to the outdoor spaces that have been part of the campus for decades.

Through extensive engagement with educators, families and alumni, it became apparent that the history of the campus and the original building design were cherished by the community. The original school was configured to be welcoming and connect with the surrounding neighborhood and Casis Village, a popular local shopping center. The school embraced outdoor learning long before it was fashionable, including play and study areas built by parents in the neighboring grove of trees known as Casis Forest.

The first new campus features a pair of two-story buildings connected on the second floor by a learning deck, which is now a popular spot for yoga sessions, events and class activities. The addition of the second floor preserved open space and the original flow of the campus, while addressing the educational goals. The design builds on Austin ISD’s specifications for next-generation learning, creating a series of small group rooms, maker spaces and open areas to support different types of teaching. Instead of co-locating the collaboration spaces in one area, designers dispersed gathering spots throughout the learning villages. Collaboration spaces are designed for transparency, flexibility and the connection to nature.

Courtyards and pockets of outdoor learning create synergy between the school, the neighborhood and nature. A steel-and-white-mesh classroom, a popular spot for classes and garden projects, was salvaged from the original campus and moved to a key location next to the Casis Forest, providing a link to the trees and the school’s unique history.

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