With its new Cardinal Union ‘vertically-oriented middle school’ nearly complete, Capitol Hill’s Seattle Academy also eyes 12th Ave expansion

Tuesday night, seniors at Capitol Hill’s Seattle Academy of Arts and Sciences celebrated their commencement ceremony as the school year comes to a close. Next fall, the private secondary education institution’s middle schoolers will be the first to attend class in the brand new $48 million Cardinal Union building that now rises with its mix of grey- and cream-colored bricks at the school’s 13th Ave corner.

“One of the things we really wanted to focus on was what makes for a great middle school building, and that’s integration and connection between separate spaces,” Rob Phillips, Seattle Academy’s head of school said about the new building. “We talked a lot about how middle school is like the estuary of a river, meaning the building would have features of an estuary so middle school kids could get in the main current that moves them towards high school, and sometimes they could eddy out and have a physical space they can go to get out of the fray of middle school.”

More classrooms coming to 12th Ave

Meanwhile on 12th Ave, the school is ready to continue its flow of recent growth. According to land use permit paperwork filed by SAAS’s outgoing head of school Joe Puggelli, the private middle and high school now has plans to create a new classroom building by converting a 24,000 square-foot warehouse that neighbors the school today.

The project would be the third major project for the academy following the 2015 opening of its science and engineering-focused Stream building at 13th Ave and Spring.

But first, let’s enjoy the academic investment at the Cardinal Union project. It’s an efficient design centered on making space for all sorts of student needs in the middle of a densely packed neighborhood like Capitol Hill.

The nearly complete building will host all middle school classes, a middle school lunchroom, SAAS’s music program, a second gym, and a rooftop field. The addition of the Cardinal Union building — already called the CUB by school officials — means less pressure on high school athletic facilities and more space for SAAS’s new and growing programs such as entrepreneurship, innovations, and robotics.

The CUB also marks the beginning of SAAS’s exit from the former middle school building in space leased from Temple De Hirsch Sinai — a move that will also give the 12th Ave warehouse project more value for the space-crunched school.

While the CUB will serve many purposes, its primary function as a middle school was a focal point during construction. The concept of rivers and estuaries resulted in respective common areas for each grade level. These common areas follow the framework of estuaries and rivers, as each space is double height, providing students a view of the common space above. “It’s almost like this cascading waterfall of community spaces all the way to the bottom floor, and you can see up and through,” Phillips said.

The CUB design was also an attempt to integrate into the surrounding community in its appearance. The exterior of the building compliments architecture in the surrounding Capitol Hill neighborhood, along with SAAS’s adjacent Vanderbilt building and gym. “We wanted it to have an identity, but we also wanted it to blend into the buildings and be part of the neighborhood, not just this separate space,” Phillips said.

Emily Piette is completing her Seattle Academy senior project with CHS. This is her final report. Thanks for the great work, Emily!


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