Flippin Elementary School

Flippin, Arkansas

In the middle of the Ozarks and the self-proclaimed trout capital of the world sits the small town of Flippin, Arkansas. In this rural setting, Flippin is a place where ‘everyone knows everyone’ and the community thrives around the school. This is a common thread in small rural towns where every dollar is hard-earned and the school is the effective second home to so many children for nine months out of the year.

Five dilapidating facilities on the campus were scheduled to be abandoned and this is where our design process and master planning began. A hard-pressed campaign for school funding was ratified in 2013, allowing us to organize a new physical education/FEMA shelter and modern 48,000-square-foot elementary school into the ad-hoc campus.

Drawing inspiration from the strata and horizon of the nearby mountain range to the west, this new front door to the campus is a fabricated ridge, a light-filled beacon to heighten the daily procession of coming to school through a clearly defined entry point. The bold red and black school colors are reflected in the material language of the facility, purposefully compounding the energy in the eyes of the community as they get something new in stark contrast to the existing aging campus that is coated in gloomy browns and situated with odd relationships to the site. This juxtaposition becomes the lens through which we think of how design truly impacts our state's rural communities.

New library, lab, art, and admin spaces are positioned along the entry ‘ridge’ and become common-use spaces within a crossroads between elementary and middle school operations. Furthermore, the ridge is a threshold to the playground courtyard beyond where the combination physical education/FEMA shelter encloses the new outdoor space on the west.

Using the standard materials of masonry and metal panels, coupled with the efficient and cost-effective opportunities of pre-engineered metal building systems, this project seeks to compose basic forms and materials into invigorating spaces inside and out within very tight budget constraints. We see simple opportunities in these constraints and developed a playful mix of metal panels encapsulated by strong and practical shed roof forms. Abstraction becomes part of the palette as glimpses of the new facility are framed from other parts of the campus. The new buildings create a strong and secure edge to the campus and a lively backdrop for outdoor spaces. A bold and striking façade defines a new community investment.

Typology Educational
location Flippin, Arkansas
completed 2017
photography Timothy Hursley