GSBS Architects Lead Park City High School Students In “Real World” Design Project to Reimagine Library / by Crystal Howell


As part of its ongoing master planning process, Park City School District challenged the community to rethink the future of education in Park City. This included an exploration of what its learning environments might provide for students, teachers and the community. Two Park City High School students accepted that challenge when they undertook a theoretical project to design a next generation library to serve all students. Corynn Olderman and Iva Chho conceived the design as part of their participation in the Center for Advanced Professional Studies, known as PCCAPS.

PCCAPS is a collaboration of education, business and community, giving students a unique, immersive experience. Part of a national program, CAPS connects students to businesses and mentors, fully immersing the students in a professional culture, solving real world problems, using industry standard tools and mentored by actual employers, all while receiving high school and college credit.


Corynn and Iva worked with and were mentored by architects Valerie Nagasawa and Ben Lowry of GSBS Architects in Salt Lake City, which also spent the school year working with Park City School District on a comprehensive facilities and educational master plan. Last February, the students and architects met to begin the project of reimagining the library/media center at Park City High School. “We wanted to use the space currently occupied by the library with a goal of making it more appealing to students as a place to meet, learn, study and socialize,” Iva said. To begin, with general guidance from the architects, the two students collaborated on ideas and then separately created preliminary designs.

With guidance and supervision from PCCAPS’s engineering instructor Chris Humbert, who is also an  architect, the students developed their concepts and plans. To help them determine the features desired by high school students, they initiated a school-wide survey and received more than 250 responses. Additionally, Corynn and Iva researched library design precedents and visited public and school libraries to see innovations and design elements used in next-generation library spaces.

According to Humbert, “The PCCAPS experience of working on a real-world project is powerful. I didn’t have the opportunity to design for a ‘real’ client until my graduate studies in architecture; PCCAPS allows students to have this experience in high school.” By May, the students’ concepts gelled and they finalized their schematic plan, which features a main floor with open spaces, comfortable chairs, tables and sofas, and a cafe for snacks and drinks.


“We wanted it to be open with lots of glass and light because the current space is claustrophobic,” Corynn said. The main floor is an inviting, more casual-social area. Connecting it to the second floor with a balcony overlooking the lower floor, is a central staircase. The second floor holds the book stacks, glass—enclosed study rooms, and tables is for more serious and quiet study. There are also rooms set aside for gaming, 3D printing and other digital fabrication.

The preliminary schematic design was critiqued in a formal presentation at GSBS Architects where Iva and Corynn used a 3D computer-modeling program to test and showcase their concepts. The architects then discussed space utilization, site lines, occupancy, capacity, materials, building codes and other issues to help the students refine their design prior to final presentation in May.

Standing before Park City School Board Members Anne Peters and Kara Hendrickson, Humbert, two GSBS Architects and several others, Iva and Corynn presented and defended their final design in an hour-long presentation just before the school year ended. They had carefully considered the architects’ critiques and suggestions, incorporated new ideas and refined their plan.

After the presentation, Hendrickson said, “What I absolutely loved about how the students handled the remake of the library was that the first thing they did was send a survey to the student body. With those results they were able to start a design by first addressing the flaws. In the end their goal was not just to make a more usable space, but really thought about how to include more students coming to this multi-functional space for many different options, studying being only one of many.”

“Through the lens of a user of that space, they brought forth functionality, innovation, aesthetics and a playful sensibility to a library environment,” said Peters. “They thought outside of the box and created a unique solution that touched on many functional aspects.”

GSBS Architects’ Lowry concurred. “Seeing the preparedness and the high quality of work by Iva and Corynn gave me confidence that the world is in good hands with next-generation designers like these two PCCAPS students.”