In early May 2022, Lara Swimmer ’87, distinguished architectural photographer with a background in documentary film, came to campus to photograph this generation of Bush students in the New Upper School building featured in this article.
The view was familiar, yet new at the same time. Standing behind a wooden lectern on a mid-May morning on the Upper School Campus, Head of School Percy L. Abram was preparing to address the hundreds of students, faculty, and staff in a moment of celebration of the New Upper School Building. This moment marked the first time since 2019 the entire Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade had gathered together as one.
“This building behind me is what The Bush School community has built for you, our students and faculty now, and for those who will walk these same halls decades after you. Something beautiful, purposeful, and impactful,” Dr. Abram explained. The sound of applause began. A smile formed on Dr. Abram’s face. He continued. “We built this so that the young child in Kindergarten will one day sit perched on the east side of the hall, on a break from their calculus class, and look out to the possibilities that await.” More applause, this time louder from the Lower School students.
On Monday, May 16, the New Upper School Building officially opened for student use. Following remarks from Dr. Abram, a blessing of the building from Duwamish Tribal Council Chairwoman Cecile Hansen, and reflections from Carolina Harr ’22, community members had the opportunity to walk the halls and tour the open spaces and classrooms. Younger students, just starting their Bush K-12 journey, also got a glimpse into their future.
“Although Bush has a distinct culture, it does evolve with its people and campus,” Carolina said. “Once upon a time, the current Lower School building was considered new, and now all of those spaces are part of the amazing everyday experiences for Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. And with this new building, the spaces will contribute to better, more collaborative learning here in the Upper School and be an inspiring place for its students.”
The New Upper School Building is positioned next to Gracemont and across from Wissner Hall, and it is the first step in the school’s Education Master Plan (EMP) for capital improvements on both the Seattle and Methow campuses. Designed with an environmentally-focused lens and serving as a dynamic learning environment for Ninth through Twelfth Grade students, the three-story building is the first Passive House school building in the West and one of the first Net-Zero-Energy school buildings in the nation. In addition, Bush is now the first K-12 Salmon Safe school campus in the U.S.
“The New Upper School Building is the first building that is designed to allow the whole Upper School community to gather together as one—unifying students and faculty as they create and sustain a culture around our shared purpose as a community of learners,” Dr. Abram said to the community on that glorious spring day in May.
• Ten modern, flexible classrooms
• Multipurpose room with a capacity of 400 • 20,000 square feet of additional educational space
• Lake Washington entrance provides enhanced ADA accessibility to the Upper Campus
• Student Life Center for Upper School students located on the main floor
• An extension of the Commons—the Pantry—provides grab-and-go food options for the Upper Campus
Beginning this summer, renovations to Gracemont and Wissner will complete the Upper Campus projects and Phase 1 of the EMP. Bush enters the 2022-2023 school year poised for Phase 2 of the EMP, with the goals of creating a more purposeful Center Campus through the main entry to the school and the Commons, updating the Middle School facilities, and growing the Bush endowment.
New Building photos: Lara Swimmer ’87