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Johnston High School

frk architects & engineers

Posted: November 12, 2018 | Projects

Johnston Community School District prepares students to become citizens of a twenty-first-century diverse and global society. Located just north of Des Moines, Iowa, this district has experienced significant growth in the last decade, which has required additional facilities, as well as modifications to existing ones.

The new Johnston High School was created out of a thorough and enlightening design process that involved faculty, students, parents, community leaders, administration, and design professionals working collaboratively to develop the new framework for a learning environment that would support engaged learning and multiple learning styles.

Flexibility of all spaces was a major theme during the design process, to allow for different uses of space for different needs at different times of the day. This flexibility was important for the entire facility in order to account for future unknowns the building might need to accommodate.

Transparency and collaboration were other key themes that arose during the planning stage. Linking the academic spaces together is a centralized commons area, open to all the rooms via an open atrium space. Surrounding the atrium are informal student areas, as well as collaboration areas for small group work. These areas are easily visible from the atrium, so all academic rooms appear connected visually.

The studio spaces themselves also include a transparent connection to the atrium space. Natural daylight is incorporated into spaces surrounding the atrium, as well as from above, providing daylight in multiple ways.

Connection to the outdoors, another theme derived during planning, led to the community and shared functions surrounding a courtyard. The courtyard can be used as an outdoor learning space, outdoor lobby for the gym or theater, outdoor art gallery for adjacent art rooms, or outdoor dining for the adjacent cafeteria.

The new high school serves 1,800 students within its 358,000-square-foot area. The main facility is two floors but has a lower level area for athletics that opens up to the rear of the site, taking advantage of the naturally sloping landscape.

The building is organized around a central circulation spine that connects three general education communities to the athletic, arts, and administration wings. Included in this connecting circulation path is an advanced design media center, the cafeteria, and three student-centered courtyards. The competition gym holds 2,500 spectators. A fully-equipped auditorium has 1,200 seats and an auxiliary black box theater. 


Building Envelope: Metal Design Systems, Firestone, Mitsubishi Plastics, Sioux City Brick
Roofing: Firestone
Windows: OldCastle BuildingEnvelope, Mid-American Glazing Systems, Inc.
Entrances, Storefronts & Curtain Walls & Daylighting: Mid-American Glazing Systems, Inc.
Flooring: Interface, Daltile, Forbo
Interior: Benjamin Moore, PPG, Koroseal
Lighting: Prescolite
Elevators: O’Keefe Elevator Company, Inc.


frk architects & engineers
2600 Westown Parkway, #340
West Des Moines, IA 50266

Design Architect
Perkins + Will
410 N. Michigan Avenue, #1600
Chicago, IL 60611

Structural Engineer 
Raker Rhodes Engineering
4717 Grand Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50312

Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing & Data Engineer
Alvine Engineering
400 E. Court Avenue, #130
Des Moines, IA 50309

Civil Engineer
Snyder & Associates
2727 S.W. Snyder Boulevard
Ankeny, IA 50023

General Contractor
Stahl Construction
861 E. Hennepin Avenue, #200
Minneapolis, MN 55414

Location: Johnston High School
Date Bid: Jul 2014
Construction Period: Sep 2014 to Apr 2017          
Total Square Feet: 358,301
Site: 125 acres
Number of Buildings: One; 98 classrooms, seating 1,800; auditorium seating, 1,200; gymnasium seating, 2,500. 
Building Sizes: Basement, 72,463; first floor, 191,279; second floor, 94,559; total, 358,301 square feet.  
Building Height: Basement, 14′; first floor, 14′; second floor, 28′; total, 67′3¾″.  
Basic Construction Type: New.
Foundation: Reinforced concrete, slab-on-grade. 
Exterior Walls: CMU, brick, curtain wall, metal panels, limestone, precast.
Roof: Metal. 
Floors: Concrete.
Interior Walls: Metal stud drywall.

View full project details in magazine issue November-December 2018.