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Architecture, artwork aesthetically pleasing

Published 8/28/2012 in Special Sections : GCHS

Local firm heads up design work on new school.

BY DEREK THOMPSON

dthompson@gctelegram.com

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1

Brad Nading/TelegramLighting above the large classroom meeting area in the School of Arts and Communications at Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramLighting above the large classroom meeting area in the School of Arts and Communications at Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramA variety of textures and finishes are throughout the school such as this outside the career center featuring wood and stone.

Brad Nading/TelegramA variety of textures and finishes are throughout the school such as this outside the career center featuring wood and stone.

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Brad Nading/TelegramA pair of metal buffalo heads are located on a pole outside the student entrance to Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramA pair of metal buffalo heads are located on a pole outside the student entrance to Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramWindows allowing natural light in are throughout Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramWindows allowing natural light in are throughout Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramThe outside main entrance for the new Garden City High School features benches and sandstone rocks for seating.

Brad Nading/TelegramThe outside main entrance for the new Garden City High School features benches and sandstone rocks for seating.

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Brad Nading/TelegramOutdoor courtyard area in northwest portion of Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramOutdoor courtyard area in northwest portion of Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramVarious textures have been used on the inside as well as the outside of Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramVarious textures have been used on the inside as well as the outside of Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramGraphics above the lounge area for the School of Trade and Health Sciences at Garden City High School.

Brad Nading/TelegramGraphics above the lounge area for the School of Trade and Health Sciences at Garden City High School.

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Brad Nading/TelegramEach school within Garden City High School has a lounge area across from the office including charging areas for iPads. The lounge area for the School of Public Service is shown.

Brad Nading/TelegramEach school within Garden City High School has a lounge area across from the office including charging areas for iPads. The lounge area for the School of Public Service is shown.

For Stewart Nelson, working on the new Garden City High School holds special importance.

Nelson, an architect with GMCN Architects in Garden City and a GCHS alumnus, helped spearhead the design of the multi-million dollar project. Having lived in Garden City since he was 5, Nelson considers himself a native of the community.

"I went to Garden City High School here, so that was kind of a nice thing about coming back and being involved in the design of a new high school," Nelson said.

The local architecture firm was one of five groups that worked to see the design of the state-of-the-art facility come to fruition. GMCN did not contribute a certain percentage of work to the project, but rather joined other firms in the project.

"We've had five different firms work on this project: our firm; DLR Group; MKEC, which is a civil engineering firm out of Wichita; We had an acoustical consultant, Theer & Associates out of Kansas City; and we had a kitchen consultant out of Topeka, Hoffman and Associates. All together, we figured out, there's been about 54 different people from the design group that have worked on this project," Nelson said.

The new high school campus sits on approximately 121 acres, and the 384,000 square-foot facility houses 120 classrooms.

The local architect was involved with the project from the get-go, helping USD 457 administrators spread the word about the bond issue in 2008 prior to the successful passage of the bond issue. Up to the school's opening this fall, Stewart said, he has been involved with the project for about four years.

"We were hired as the project architect because the school district wanted us as a local entity to sort of be in charge of the project. My role ... was to kind of organize everybody and be a liaison between DLR group, these other consultants and the owner."

Stewart did have a "minor role" in the design of some interior spaces, including the locker rooms, though he and his firm contributed in other facets of the expansive project.

"A big portion of it was actually during the construction. I personally worked on it during the initial meetings with staff and administration over at the high school. I was involved in a little bit of the design work. ... Most of the design occurred up in the Kansas City office. I've got to give them a lot of credit because what you see out there is mostly their work."

According to Nelson, there are several architectural highlights of the new facility, including the commons area and the "point."

"I think, obviously, the main focal points, I guess you might say, would be the cafeteria or what we call the commons area — the kind of triangle shaped area that comes out to a point at the north. That's where all the students will come into the school and eventually go to their academies," Nelson said.

On the east facing glass of the "point," there is a buffalo on the glass. The buffalo faces the visitors section at the stadium, and is visible to travelers coming around the U.S. Highway 50 bypass. It also is intended to provide a bit of "intimidation" to opponents, the architect said.

In addition, Nelson counts the 750-seat auditorium and the 2,500-seat gymnasium as other architectural highlights at the facility.

"They don't have a space over where they were at where they could bring their entire student body into one space. The gym (at the previous high school) just wasn't big enough to handle all the kids and put them in a seat," Nelson said.

The gymnasium features a lower-level court, with people entering the gym at the top of the stands and working their way down to their seats. A separate practice gym is adjacent to the main gym.

A greenhouse is on the west end of the facility, a feature not common in many high schools. The greenhouse will be utilized by the school of trade and health sciences.

"The instructors wanted to get a greenhouse for part of their curriculum, so that was added to that side of the building as part of that academy," Roy Cessna, public information officer with USD 457, said.

Nelson added that the new school is fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with numerous features in place to serve all visitors to the facility.

"The school is entirely accessible from an ADA standpoint. It has three elevators that will take you up to all of the levels," Nelson said.

The school is basically a two-story structure, but there are areas that have three-story spaces, including the arts and communications area.

In keeping with the fresh design at the new school, new artwork was installed in the various academies. Large, multicolored murals adorn the walls in the facility, with inspirational quotes and imagery that pertain to the course of study in the academies.

A mural in the school of trade and health sciences reads "Space is the breath of art," a quote by Frank Lloyd Wright, a prominent American architect and designer.

Tracy Leiker, associate principal in the freshman academy, helped spearhead the new artwork in the high school. Staples from the old high school were brought over to the new building, in addition to the new murals in each of the four academies, as well as in the commons/cafeteria area.

The school's mascot, the buffalo, is well represented in the new school.

"We brought over the sodbuster buffalo. ... It's a stuffed buffalo that was formerly near the athletics department (in the old school). It's now by the auditorium," Leiker said.

"TaTonka," a bronze buffalo designed and crafted by Javier Rivas, a 1999 graduate of GCHS, was moved to the new facility, as well. It is now located by the front visitors entrance.

A bronze buffalo statue was donated this year by the classes of '61, '62 and '63. A sand blasted buffalo statue donated by the classes of '67, '68 and '69 is now outside the commons area courtyard. It was brought over from the other school, Leiker said.

In addition, a Garden City Senior High buffalo monument, donated by the class of '79, is now outside the commons area courtyard. It also was brought over from the other school. A buffalo mosaic created by the GCHS art department is now at the front entrance. It was brought out of storage and repaired by the current art club.

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