Bilkent Erzurum Laboratory School (Bels)

CompanyFxfowle
Lead DesignerNicholas Garrison, AIA, OAQ, LEED AP
Design Team Nicholas Garrison, AIA, OAQ, LEED AP, Partner-in-Charge, Design Leader Scott Melching, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, GRP, Senior Associate, Project Architect Jack Coble, Project Designer Nobuhiko Arai, Designer Moonhee Kang, Designer Kazuhiro Adachi, Model Maker Miwa Fukui, Model Maker
PrizeLandscape Architecture / Educational

Conceived as two entwined "ribbons" of enclosed walks, the new addition for Bilkent Erzurum Laboratory School (BELS) connects to an existing Upper School campus, its geometry, and the surrounding natural topography. Located on a high desert plain on the outskirts of Erzurum, in Eastern Turkey, the 70,000-square-foot Lower School provides elementary and middle school learning spaces, a library, outdoor recreational spaces, and a shared cafeteria. Founded by Bilkent University, Ankara, BELS’s altruistic mission is to provide a free education to promising children in one of Turkey’s most isolated and impoverished regions. The school’s two-story upper ribbon turns uphill to meet grade, forming a central green for the campus to one side (used for ice skating in the winter), and a wind-protected entrance and play area to the other. A double- height cafeteria connects the building to the existing Upper School, serving as a community living room throughout the day. Awash in daylight, this space frames sweeping views of the majestic Palandöken Mountain range. The school's lower ribbon follows the upper, then "peels" away until it meets the lower grade of the site. Zinc-clad with wood-lined undersides, pitched roofs follow the continuous slope of the land. Erzurum’s extremely low temperatures for most of the year influenced glazing and lighting design, and the building’s robust steel framing responds to unpredictable seismic conditions. Exposed structural connections provide students with didactic evidence of the school’s engineering and construction. Travertine and basalt stone blend new construction with the palette of the existing campus and add timeless warmth and intrinsic durability. The design evolved from its connection to Bilkent’s high aspirations and commitment to excellence. Serving as a physical symbol of these values, the building provides daily inspiration for its students to fulfill their individual promise and to "pay it forward" as future leaders of Turkish society.