Lake City Community School Addition and Renovation

  • area / size 33,255 sqft
  • Completed 2020
  • RTA Architects brought new life to campus with an addition and renovation at Lake City Community School in Lake City, Colorado.

    Constructed in 1986 on the site of the original 1880s brick school house, the Lake City Community School is a PK-12 school serving students in Hinsdale County, Colorado and is one of the earliest schools on Colorado’s Western Slope. It is also extremely mountainous and remote, even by Colorado standards, with the continental divide crossing the county twice. In fact, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), Hinsdale County is the most isolated county in the contiguous United States, described “one of the most roadless areas in the country.” Despite all these challenges and remote location, the Lake City Community School is rated as one of the top public schools in the state by the Colorado Department of Education. It has been recognized as a John Irwin School of Excellence several times, and is Accredited With Distinction by the Colorado Department of Education. In addition, the school has a low student-to-teacher ratio and broad community support for the students, teachers, and administration.

    Although renovated and added on to over the decades, the aging facility was in need of significant upgrades, with the lack of a Gymnasium being the most significant issue (it was the only public school in the state of Colorado without a Gymnasium ). This caused students to have to walk more than six blocks from the school to the downtown armory for physical education, posing significant safety concerns including the need for students to cross four intersections while enduring heavy tourist traffic and threats from local mountain wildlife.

    RTA Architects helped the school district and the community settle on an addition and full interior renovation design that could prioritize multi-functional elements to enhance security, health, and safety issues while still maintaining the character of the historic school site and the neighborhood. The renovation and addition involved the construction of a new Gymnasium, stage/music room, a Career and Technical Education (CTE) classroom, preschool classroom, and a new commercial kitchen.

    Lake City played a key role in the development of the American West, and residents of this remote mountain town diligently preserved their history and ever-evolving frontier culture. RTA worked closely with the Town Board of Trustees and the county Historical Society to ensure the mass and character of the addition did not overwhelm the site and that the exterior reflected the feel of the National Register Historic District in which the school is located. Durable cement board was used to recall board and batten siding, and the old school’s exterior brick walls were left exposed to honor the history of the facility. Paired with vertical windows, the exterior of the building blends with neighboring local historic structures concealing the large Gymnasium inside.

    Sustainable design was also a priority of the design. Classrooms were designed with prioritized access to daylighting, and interior spaces feature solatubes to distribute daylight and reduce electricity use. Displacement ventilation was specified to reduce Co2 levels, reduce classroom noise, and provide improved occupant comfort and air flow.

    The simple and fresh white and blue color palette is found throughout the building. The design theme in the Commons is named “the waterfall”, reflecting the four waterfalls in the area. It begins with and continues with the staggered flooring tiles in shades of blue, reminiscent of moving water, and illuminated blue panels recall falling water.

    This project received recognition from the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) at the 2021 national conference for excellence in the Addition and Renovation Category as well as the 2020 Summit Design Award for Outstanding Design in Renovation from the A4LE Rocky Mountain Chapter.

    Design: RTA Architects
    Photography: David Lauer Photography