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WDC school earns architecture award

The Minneapolis chapter of the American Institute of Architects recently named the Wadena-Deer Creek middle/high school as one of four 2014 Merit Award winners. Architects from Perkins+Will designed the project, which was completed in a shorter-than-usual time frame.

The team effort to rebuild the Wadena-Deer Creek middle/high school following the 2010 tornado has been recognized with a regional architecture award.

The Minneapolis chapter of the American Institute of Architects recently named the project as one of four 2014 Merit Award winners. Perkins+Will designed the school, which opened in fall 2012 after an expedited construction process, with consistent input from school board members and administrators.

"The Merit Awards are bestowed to projects by AIA Minneapolis architects that tell a story of excellence beyond design, reflecting the variety of forces that shape a building," according to the institute's website.

The institute also honored the firms that designed the Hmong College Prep Academy and Unity Church-Unitarian - both St. Paul projects - as well as a MnDOT facility in Maple Grove.

The Merit Award is not just for Perkins+Will, said company architect James Howarth, who worked on the WDC school under lead architect Steven Miller.

"It's really a team award," Howarth said. "The situation there was extremely unique and challenging. It was built in a short period of time. It was a really exciting process for us to be involved in an a fun team to work with. It's nice to see the project recognized with that award."

As students attended temporary facilities, the WDC school board held nearly weekly meetings to "coordinate the chaos," then-chairwoman Ann Pate said.

During that time, she said, the board and school leaders met frequently with the architects - and the collaboration paid off.

"It's very well designed and very welcoming," Pate said.

WDC leaders, including former Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom, "deserve a big pat on the back," said Lee Westrum, first-year WDC superintendent.

"It's got a nice, clean modern design to it," he said.

Westrum said he particularly likes the commons area, with its large windows that fill the space with natural light.

"It just draws people. People want to be out there," he said, noting "the students love the building."

Perkins+Will also received the 2013 Award of Excellence from the Minnesota Construction Association for work on the school. The association recognized the project for its overall success.