Designing a Culture of Opportunity
Opportunity is defined simply as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. Defining a culture of opportunity for Arlington ISD and the entire Arlington community has been at the forefront of every discussion concerning the Dan Dipert Career + Technical Center.
It was crucial that the Center’s architecture promote Arlington ISD’s vision for a new culture of opportunity for their students. Expressive and monumental, the architecture is unique to the neighborhood and city as a whole. The expansive curtain wall, featuring diagonal sun shade fins, serves as a subconscious billboard to passersby—visitors and students understand they are entering an institution of higher learning and not just another run-of-the-mill high school building. Arlington ISD and VLK Architects collaborated with industry experts to ensure that each academy within the Career + Technical Center would prepare students for the real world. All 18 academies surround a central space fronted with glass to maximize transparency. Strolling down this main corridor, one can view students engaging in a variety of skills, from aligning the wheels on a Ford F150 or programming and operating CNC machines, to students styling hair or conducting TV Newscasts.
Collaboration at all levels is the driving force behind the design of the Dan Dipert Career + Technical Center. The central space allows for cross-pollination among the different academies, such as Health Sciences and the Fire Academy, or Photography and Cosmetology. This creates an environment where students solve problems together and work as teams, just as they will be expected to do as productive citizens of their communities. Such collaboration continues throughout the Center’s floorplan. Teachers will office in a common area instead of individual classrooms and furniture will encourage collaboration among the staff by arrangement in pods.
Diversity is another key ingredient of the Dipert CTC culture. The student body will be drawn from six different high schools throughout the district. The tremendous opportunity to acquire certification upon graduation is creating a lot of excitement among these high school students. With these certifications, they will be able to immediately join the workforce. For those students who plan to attain a university degree, the Dipert CTC also offers college preparatory courses.
Because the Dan Dipert CTC will house 18 specialized academies, from Culinary Arts and Welding to Engineering and Robotics, an all-inclusive, branded facility was needed. The brand for the program and the building had to be united, easily recognizable, simple and powerful, symbolizing the opportunities the Center affords students in this large district. It was inspired by the building itself, using the sun shade fins as the repeating image throughout. The image not only works to identify the school, but also provides wayfinding so that academies can be easily located. Throughout the building, signage, graphics, and window film invite current students and beckon future generations of learners. Visitors and students can easily identify the Dan Dipert CTC and will remember it long after they experience it. The Dan Dipert Career + Technical Center creates the possibility for all students of Arlington ISD to not only do something, but do anything.