K-12 Education

Waterloo Career Center

Waterloo, IA

With the goal of expanding career pathways for students in Waterloo and the surrounding communities, the school board worked with INVISION to plan an addition and renovation to Central Middle School that would support flexible, active, 21st century learning. The existing school, built like a concrete bunker in the 1970s, was underutilized and had very little natural light.

The team’s priorities were distilled into seven project drivers, developed collaboratively between INVISION and the planning committee and used throughout the process to guide design decisions: 

  • Engagement
  • Align
  • Adaptability
  • Identity
  • Heart
  • Experience
  • Waterloo

To provide the space needed, INVISION designed a single-story addition and a major interior renovation. An important goal for the project was to use daylighting strategies to draw natural light into the previously dark interior. The finished space supports 15 new programs in spaces ranging from high-bay labs to collaborative classrooms for cross-disciplinary education, planned for flexibility as programs adjust over time. Since the opening of the newly expanded Waterloo Career Center, the career training program has grown exponentially with more new students each year.

Kathryn Payne
Managing Architect

The project encompassed roughly 77,000 gross square feet of renovation and included a small addition of nearly 3,500 square feet. The location of the addition was selected to serve as a key indicator for entry into the new career center from the major traffic artery to the northeast. 

The small addition was clad in weathered steel panels with exposed steel structure, highlighting the raw aesthetic of the overall project. The weathered steel office cube was balanced by expansive glass curtain wall that allows views out but also invites viewing in from the exterior at night. The addition serves as an entry jewel, — emitting light from within for the new Career Senter.