Project Specifications

  • Project Name: Thaden School
  • Project Architects: Marlon Blackwell Architects
  • Project Location: Bentonville, United States
  • Project Area: 110000 sq. ft
  • Project Year: 2021
  • Landscape Architect: Andropogon
  • Engineers: CMTA

Thaden School is a private institution constructed to play a public role. An independent school structure nestled in Bentonville was designed by Marlon Blackwell Architects who based the entire design on the concept of their core curriculum activities with their angular structures.

Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects

Marlon Blackwell Architects played around with asymmetry in this design in order to highlight the unique teaching approach of Thaden School. The school design was funded by the founders of Walmart and caters to students in grades 6 to 12. This private institution aims at promoting learning with one-of-its-kind activities that involve the construction of bicycles, filmmaking, and even cooking. Thaden School by Marlon Blackwell Architects is named after Louise Thaden, a pioneering lady flyer. 

The team at Marlon Blackwell Architects designed five buildings for the institution and also supervised the relocation and restoration of Louise Thaden’s home. The home was brought from a site in Bentonville to the campus of Thaden School. The residence functions as a gateway on the Northeast side of the campus from the junction of C and Eighth streets. 

The facade of the home has thoughtfully been preserved and rebuilt in order to retain its authentic look. The original visual was further jazzed up with the construction of detached washrooms placed in the south of the house.

The design composed a court layout on the Ozark farmsteads. The doors of this home open up to the history of the home through its construction techniques. The smaller wing of the room was transformed into a meeting hall and gallery while the second floor homes the private archives of the Thaden family.

The collaboration with engineers at CMTA and landscape architects Andropogon generated the marvelous masterplan of the 26-acre land of the Thaden School. The campus is sprawled across two plots that are woven together through streets and can be approached by cars, cyclers, or pedestrians. 

A boy riding a bike down a sidewalk next to Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects

Either side of the shared street takes a local tack native to Arkansas where long structures are oriented along the lane in order to keep control of the exposure to harsh sunlight and promote the flow of natural ventilation with ease. These elongated forms of buildings are intentionally twisted and turned in order to offer outdoor meeting spaces and cut down on the elongated hallways.

Principles of Thaden School Are Based on Three Concepts:

Principles of Thaden School

1. Wheels

The program of wheels is all about clubbing mechanics and physics together and bringing them to life through the construction of bicycles and other types of machinery with wheels.

2. Meals

The concept of meals is based on biology and chemistry and leads to community living where students function on fields to cultivate and prepare meals.

3. Reels 

The principle of reels composes visuals and narratives and glorifies communication through film and video exhibits. 

A students standing outside of a
Thaden School

This school offers a chance for the students to learn and evolve not only on campus but off-site as well. A collaboration with regional groups skilled in the fields of bicycling, culinary arts, and visual arts let the students of Thaden School approach comprehension in the most distinctive mode. The school makes a student complete as they have several indoor and outdoor education techniques. 

This architectural marvel by Marlon Blackwell Architects itself serves as an educational tool where the land is agriculturally suitable and also minimizes flooding. The design also rebuilds the natural exosystems native to the place. 

The Art and Administration Building

The Art and Administration Building of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects

One of the most remarkable structures of Thaden School is the new Art and Administration wing that accommodates the core programs along with classrooms, reels, administration zones, and even wet labs. The site plan was designed as a response to the local climatic conditions and environmental barriers like the collection of water on site and even extreme daylight.

The asymmetrical roofing along with landscaping was presented as a key to these challenges. This building can be seen anywhere from the campus with its irregularly pitched roof and rolls. These let in the natural light and ventilation of the interiors.

The building is housed on the northeast edge of the site where a grand entry leads to the heart of the campus which is the performance building of Thaden school that shares an open courtyard with Thaden’s historic home. The administration block is well-connected with the other parts of the campus along with the Reels program. Whether it’s a fresher student or a middle-school student, this design builds a nurturing environment for each child on that campus. 

The interior planning segregates the classroom and wet lab areas with service zone like mechanical areas, washrooms, and storage space. A well-illuminated corridor leads the way to various labs and is designed with a bar of several studies and learning spaces which not only create a dynamic space but also a confluence learning ambiance for each student. 

Bike Barn at Thaden School

Bike Barn at Thaden School

The eastern periphery of the Thaden school campus is home to the Bike barn. This building is blended with the pedestrian pathways that further connect the campus to a larger trail extending northwest of Arkansas. The barn is designed in a way to maximize its height in order to accommodate various sports including cycling, volleyball, and basketball. 

The truss was manufactured by a local fabricator with the use of locally available materials and expert methodology. The entire building speaks a native language with its exterior walls being cladded in local cypress and splashed with coats of traditional red paint.

The west side of the structure opens up to the soccer field with a deep porch that offers a sense of shelter along with shade. Other than the locker and storage rooms in the building, the entire structure receives natural ventilation with a play of open joints formed in the cypress boards and roller doors opening seamlessly to the neighboring landscaping. 

The Wheels Department

The Wheels Department of Thaden School

The Wheels Science and Fabrication Department is the home to the Wheel-concept-related activities. This department flourished on public grounds as it connected the campus and Bentonville Square. This structure is nestled on the Southern edge of the Thaden Performance building and west of the student commons.

The eastern edge of this building conjures up a sense of formal entrance. The canopy running above the main street serves as a board for the entire Thaden school campus and also acts as an outdoor workshop area for the Wheels lab. 

The roof of this building is an artistic expression resembling the approach followed in the Arts and Administration department design. The roofing system is expressive as well as a performance response.

The entire building is designed with a linear approach in its plan which distributes various activities along the long spine while specialized programs are added to the eastern and western ends of the building. The covered spaces extend out of the built environment into an open space which also permits the showcasing of campus activities to the community.

A maker space in the student’s common zone keeps their works on display at all times. The central corridor reaches its extent to nestle the collaboration of students and offer well-lit study spaces to which the skylight feeds natural lighting. 

The Performance Center

The Performance Center of Thaden School

In the entire campus of Thaden school, its northwest corner stands apart as it nestles the performance department. The design is visible to the public and its inviting appeal allows the community to come together and ignites a sense of connection while also keeping up with the desired security standards of the school. 

This modern building is home to several educational activities like drama, film, and music and has a stage for the ultimate showcasing of students’ hard work. The flexible spaces comprehend the school’s basic mission and offer a platform for exploration, experimentation, and imagination.

The canopy on the building extends beyond the building and forms a skylight on its entry. A big puncture of the window looks out to the views of the original Thaden home. The window is larger indoors which allows soft lighting to enter the space. 

roof of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects

“Thaden School exists at an interesting intersection in Bentonville, Arkansas: It sits on the site of the former county fairgrounds and it is also tied to the historic downtown square. Within this urban, pastoral condition, the school buildings’ design reflects this sense of being both nature-made and culture-made,” mentioned the principal of Marlon Blackwell Architects.

“Exploring these dualities, we consider the color that reflected both the surrounding prairie grasses and the automobile influences of the 1950s and ’60s. In addition, the school’s namesake, Louise Thaden represents the golden age of aviation. We used this as a point of departure to further examine the colors and coatings of classic cars and planes while creating a resonance with the Osage prairie that is planted around the building,” he added.

Thaden School Bike Barn
Thaden School campus
structure of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
Thaden School exterior
sport area of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
music room of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
Auditorium of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
Thaden School corridor
design drawing of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
top view drawing of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
Layout of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
2D drawing of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects
2D drawing of bike barn of Thaden School Marlon Blackwell Architects


Thaden school sets an example of how conventional teaching methods need to be broken down in order to prepare for something new. This same is the case with its architecture where Marlon Blackwell Architects break down the symmetry in order to compose something that’s not only meaningful but caters to the new-age problems with native practices.

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