A gateway to discovery: Channeling an icons entrepreneurial spirit

Burbank School District 111, Luther Burbank Elementary School, Burbank, IL

It’s a common to equate historical figures as something of the past; the ideas of leaders or thinkers from previous decades or generations could be seen as out of touch, and thus their beliefs or achievements should remain in the era in which they thrived within. This is not the case with Luther Burbank, a horticultural pioneer and inventor that developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants over his 55-year career.

Burbank School District 111 not only recognizes the influence of Burbank’s contributions to the scientific and horticultural community, they embrace him. As a result, our team ensured Burbank’s legacy lives on within the design of the district’s K-6 elementary school. Burbank’s legacy served as a gateway to discovery and inspired our team to create a project-based learning environment that engages students, inspires their entrepreneurial spirit and fills them with wonder. Our design helps embrace the school and community’s want to recognize how heritage can build connections while simultaneously creating a responsive and an adaptable learning environment.

To tie Burbank’s legacy within every space and element in the new school, we helped create an inspiring, future-ready learning environment with strong connections to the outdoors. We connected indoor spaces to outdoor classrooms, which are set among native gardens that create a bio-swale and visible drainage system to foster continuous learning opportunities. As Burbank would have preferred, we ensured sustainable elements are fused throughout; from spaces filled with natural light, to adding a high-performance geothermal mechanical system–which combined, reduces operating costs and provides a productive academic environment – and encourages environmental literacy.

As a final nod to the community’s passion for the history of Luther Burbank and the previous school, we salvaged stone carvings depicting historical learning methodologies that are now installed at the building entry alongside a graphic timeline of Burbank’s botany legacy. Each panel represents an educational theme for each grade and ties the history of the school into its new environment.