Exploring new ideas with the students at New Urban High School

Posted on Thursday, August 27, 2020

Inspired by the work of our staff with the International and Refugee students at Portland Public Schools through the International Youth Council, the New Urban High School design team engaged students throughout the design process to gather their ideas about the building.


Our engagement process was structured around graphic forms and accessible tools to create an inclusive, open-ended and playful design approach, free of assumptions and predetermined outcomes, and intended to empower students’ voices to be fully expressed in the design.

At the early stages of design we collaborated with a NUHS Art Class and asked the students ‘What makes you feel welcome?’ The students explored the question through collaging, followed by sharing their work. The student collages clearly showed the significance of natural light, vibrant colors, and opportunities for art display as common themes.

The themes developed in the student engagement exercise became central to the design of NUHS. The main entry greets visitors with colorful sunshades that reflect the energy and artistic interest of the students. These themes are echoed in the interior commons, with student art displayed on rotating art panels. In the Fall of 2020, Opsis will engage the students again to finalize the finishes for their new Gymnasium.