Thaden School Wins MacConnell Award

October 14, 2022

Washington, DC—Thaden School planned and designed by EskewDumezRipple, Marlon Blackwell Architects, and Andropogon Associates, located in Bentonville, Arkansas has been awarded the 2022 James D. MacConnell Award.

Philip Riedel, principal, of NAC Architecture and jury chair commented, “With over 75 projects submitted in the awards program, the MacConnell projects are exceptional examples of comprehensive planning resulting in schools that support teaching and learning and serve the multiple needs of the students, staff, and the community. All that entered are to be commended for improving the places children learn.”

The founding vision for Thaden School sought to challenge traditional paradigms of education and to create a campus where students are afforded optimal opportunities to learn from their surroundings and interact with their community. Thaden School’s philosophy of “learning by doing” and “learning by moving” necessitate an approach where the academic programs are disbursed across the landscape, each with their own lab/makerspace, where students learn to integrate the movements of their minds and hands.

The jury noted, “This school celebrates the ability to respond to differences. Ownership and stewardship are strong here. This is symbolic of the idea of an ‘anti-school’ where students' receive a distinct message about the agency and respect afforded to their individual learning. It promotes freedom of creativity through its spirited design.”

As the jury concluded its deliberations, one juror exclaimed, “The planning and design of Thaden is pure poetry!”

The Association for Learning Environments is the only professional organization whose primary purpose is improving the places where children learn. With approximately 5,300 members, the Association encompasses six geographic regions across the United States and supports regional representation in Canada, Australasia, and the UK. The Association embraces a collaborative network of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, resilient, and sustainable 21st Century learning places that inspire transformation in education, enhance student and teacher performance, and support culture and community vitality. To learn more visit our website,