Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has had a remarkably busy year and, following its recent completion of The Twist and CopenHill, is back again with a new project called The Heights.

The public school, which also involved Leo A Daly as executive architect, has an unusual design that fans out to create outdoor terrace areas in a compact site.The Heights is located in Arlington, Virginia, and merges two previous schools, the H-B Woodlawn Program and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver Program, into a new building that will accommodate an expected 775 students, some of which have specialized education needs.

The building’s overall form is informed by its location in a challenging compact urban site that’s surrounded by roads on three sides and a park on the other. It’s conceived as a stack of five rectangular slabs that fan out to create green-roofed terraces that serve as an extension of the classrooms.The density of the urban Arlington neighborhood became the inspiration for the school – we fanned the classrooms to allow each and every floor to be connected to the roof garden on top of the classrooms below,” explains Bjarke Ingels, founder and creative director at BIG.

“The resultant cascading terraces are connected by a curving stair that weaves through all levels – inside as well as outside – making all students, from both programs and all ages, visually and physically connected to each other. Each terrace is landscaped to lend itself not just to the social life of the students but also as informal outdoor spaces for learning.”