Wadena Deer Creek Middle and High Schools

Wadena Deer Creek Middle and High Schools opened on September 4, 2012. The brand-new public school building serves students in grades 5-12 from three small, neighboring communities: Wadena, Deer Creek, and Bluffton, Minnesota.


Location Wadena, Minnesota

Number of People Served Over 600 students in grades 5-12 plus teachers and staff, and the community at large

Sales Representative Contact Information Shelley Hauge of Schrader Hernke

Designer Lindsey Evanson, Perkins+Will, Minneapolis

The Need

After a devastating tornado destroyed the Wadena Deer Creek High School on June 17, 2010, the most pressing need facing the district was clear: to get students back in their own school building as quickly as possible. That meant ordering from a single manufactuerer with a wide variety of options was important.

In addition to a speedy design and build process, the district was seeking a school that could meet ever-changing technology needs and be flexible enough to accommodate the range of student age groups and even community events.

The district also involved students in the planning process, to ensure their needs and ideas were considered in the design of the new school. Students shared their desire for third spaces -- like lounges and the cafeteria -- with a more sophisticated, college-like feel.

The izzy+ Solution

The cafeteria is at the heart of the school's design. Rather than creating a traditional cafeteria, architects designed an open, airy commons area that can be used in multiple ways, bothy by the school and for continuing education and community programs. To furnish the space, Evenson chose izzy+ pieces (Pick-a-Top, Pick-a-Base tables and Smile chairs) that met both the flexibility needs of administrators and the aesthetic desires of students.

"This type of furniture is very flexible," Evenson says. "You can push tables together or move them to the side, and the chairs are stackable and easy to move. It's not just a dedicated lunch room."

Seven lounge areas throughout the building provide casual third-space options for students who wwant to study, hold an informal meeting, or just enjoy some down time. Each lounge includes Forum lounge seating as well as high-top tables and stools (Pick-a-Top, Pick-a-Base and Smile by Fixtures). A marker board, tack bord, and a media screen make the spaces more interactive, versatile, and collaborative.

"The students really liked the lounge areas, especially the soft seating," says Evenson. "As the designer, I wanted something very durable and easy to move, so students could take ownership of the space and use it in the way they wanted to. Forum was perfect. I love the simplicity, the durability, and the price point. I was also able to use a scaled up version in the offices, with a wood back for a more sophisticated look."

Overall, colors and materials played a big part in the design of the spaces, Evenson says. "The building itself is extremely neutral, with lots of whites and greys...so we were able to bring color into the space through the furniture, and do some really fun things."

Like specifying Smile stools and chairs in vibrant orange and three shades of blue, and mixing patterned upholsteries in shades of blue, green, and yellow for the Forum lounge seating. "I wanted to bring as much vibrancy into the space as possible," Evenson says.

Following her firm's 80-20 design rule -- 80 percent neutral, 20 percent color -- Evenson says well over 10 percent of the color in the school was brought in through the izzy+ furniture.

"All of the colors and finishes match and coordinate across the three brands [izzy, Harter, and Fixtures], and there were so many great choices," says Evenson. "One of the best things about Smile was the huge range of colors it comes in -- about twice as many as similar chairs. It also feels more substantial."

Shelly Hauge, the manufacturer's rep for izzy+ at Schrader Hernke, says the durability, longevity, and simplicity of both Forum and Smile won the client over. Samples of the seating products were sent up to the school for the clients to try in advance.

Sustainability was also a priority for the school district. In August 2013, Wadena-Deer Creek was awarded LEED Gold status, in part thanks to a credit for Low Emitting Furniture (IEQ C4.5).