From Mundane to Marvelous

April 9, 2021

An inspired tweak to a standard Solatube offering puts an exclamation point on a space to inspire reading and learning.

Sunnyvale, Texas
WRA Architects

Create a state-of-the-art library that would serve as a focal point for the school, and find a way to bring daylight into the space with a unique aesthetic, as lighting was to be one of the key elements in the overall design of the library.


Sunnyvale Independent School District was driven to create a new type of school design due to a shift in the way they were educating their students. The Intermediate school was their first new building under this change and was designed to align the built environment with the educational platform thus supporting the new style of interaction between the students and teachers. It is sub-divided into three learning communities, or “houses,” with each two-story “house’ containing nine classrooms. In order to facilitate interaction and collaboration, breakout spaces and small group rooms are interspersed amongst the classrooms. The use of abundant walls of glass and an absence of corridors creates an open, transparent design that contributes to effective areas for learning. Not all of the learning areas are indoors, however. Covered outdoor spaces on both the ground and second floor help to contribute to the unique and refreshing classroom setting.

All three communities overlook a large, shared commons area and media center to further support interaction between all students. In addition, dedicated spaces for art, science, music, and special education also open onto the commons. The overall building can accommodate 600 students in grades 3-5. These students will stay together in the same house for three years of schooling with an equal number of students from each of the three grades in each house. Administration offices, a gymnasium (also designed to serve as a storm shelter), a light-filled cafeteria and library are located on the public side of the campus.


Solatube worked closely with the architect to create a striking and high-performing solution which entailed dropping the tubular daylighting devices into the space and terminating them at different lengths. Custom cast, acrylic tubes were then hoisted up over the bottom of the tubes to create a one-of-a- kind chandelier effect where the broad-spectrum daylight would perfectly illuminate the space and create a beautiful, even glow to the acrylic tubes. This dynamic design resulted in an extraordinary space that inspires students to read, study and learn. Additionally, the students and faculty benefit from the positive effects of daylight. “One of my favorite moments is seeing our students light up when they enter the library!” says Sara Staley, principal of Sunnyvale ISD “They look up at the tubular daylighting devices and comment how big they are and want to know how they light up.”

Staley adds it’s fun to hear students comment, at different times, when the library is darker or very light,  knowing that it is because of the amount of outside light. “We love that we have a product that is also a learning tool.”


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