Education Architecture

They used WHAT? On top of WHERE?

Architecture is widely known as a problem-solving profession. And sometimes, solving those problems means using materials or solutions one would never normally associate with design.

Like bowling balls, for example...

Yes, you read that correctly. Bowling balls! 

For the new Fountain Middle School in Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8, CRP was working to create an open, yet iconic commons stairway, inspired by the design currently in the Tivoli Student Union. As a focal point of one of the main school spaces, we knew it had to be unique and visually inviting.

However, the challenge in achieving this aesthetic was designing the rounded caps of the railing posts while staying in budget and avoiding extended lead times for fabrication. There was also the idea of incorporating a marbleized look to accent this monumental stair. But once again... budget. And as we all know, marble is not the cheapest of material options.

Working alongside our interior designers, Jean Sebben Associates, meant a creative solution was on the horizon. During a preliminary design meeting, Mike Esch, JSA's Design Director exclaimed, "What if we used bowling balls?". While not a common statement in our usual schematic planning discussions, no one could think of a reason of why NOT to use bowling balls. 

So here we are, over a year in the making...

As we wrap up the first phase of this full-building replacement project, we'd like to introduce the official Bowling Ball Capped Stair Rails featured at Fountain Middle School.

In collaboration with Brunswick, we selected a color blend (Patriot Blaze) that celebrated the school colors, red and blue. They ran a special order of non-logo bowling balls for use on this project alone. Each ball was carefully measured and cut for assembly atop the stair post's custom diameter. This also meant that there are no post caps like another, each one is individual in nature; a symbolism in acknowledging that no two students are the same, with each and every one bringing a unique character and light to the new facility.  Art C. Klein Construction worked meticulously in detailing and executing the full installation process. This intriguing touch definitely adds something special to the sense of pride and overall experience. And as Brunswick would agree, "Experience Is Everything".

Special thanks to: Jean Sebben Associates, Brunswick and Art C. Klein Construction

More pictures and information on the final project completion coming soon!

Phase I: Opening for 2018-2019 School Year

Phase II: Opening for 2019-2020 School Year

Bulls Lead The Way

As Falcon School District 49 continues to be one of the state's fastest growing school districts, there was no time to spare in planning the expansion of their facilities and the future of their community. With hundreds of new homes being built and new families moving into the district, it was time to face this growth head-on with the addition of a new elementary school. Along with other projects, this school is one of the included items in Falcon's "Building Our Future Community" campaign. This initiative was brought to life through the 3B mill levy override passed during the November 2016 election. With a nearly two-to-one passing ratio, the community truly stepped up, recognized the need for expansion and brought a whole new energy to the common phrase of grabbing the bull by the horns

Located North of the current Falcon Middle School, the empty lot below the water towers will be transformed into a brand new 63,800SF elementary school. Recently named Bennett Ranch Elementary, the new school will feature a centralized student commons with a performance stage, various flex-spaces including one for multi-media and learning exploration, academic pods organized by grade levels, an elementary-size gym, extra-curricular spaces and all new outdoor play areas. The district wanted a design that facilitated not only 21st century learning but a platform to explore 22nd century learning models. The materials and interiors scheme will reflect the school colors (gold and black) while integrating the color aesthetic of the Western plains, paying homage to the schools surrounding landscape. Wood, earth tones, local cultured block and vibrant pops of Colorado color will make for an inviting, engaging environment for learning. 

The school's name, approved by the school board in early August, was derived from the famous Bennett Ranches nearby in Peyton, CO. The founding brothers, Hugh and Ralph, were active rodeo champions and took great pride in upholding the pristine reputation of their cattle ranches. Hugh was even recognized in 2008 as one of the top 15 cowboys to shape Western culture. In honor of the Bennett legacy, the school's mascot has been chosen as a bull. And while the district is still working through iterations of what the final mascot will look like, we can still say, 'Go Bennett Ranch Bulls!' in the meantime. Aspects of the family history and various memorabilia will also be featured in the school's design. 

The school is scheduled to open for the 2018-2019 school year. The design phase was completed a month ahead of schedule with the preliminary costs coming in under-budget. This will allow the district to consider adding addition scope to enhance the overall outcome of the new facility. The site is also being master-planned for a future middle school addition which would eventually make Bennett Ranch a PreK-8th building. We celebrated the groundbreaking ceremony on August 24th, 2017 alongside our project contractor, GE Johnson. Below are some architectural renderings of the new elementary, as well as photos from the event.  

Groundbreaking Ceremony

Construction Progress | Completed July 2018 

Ribbon-cutting Ceremony

The Adventure begins...

Groundbreaking Ceremony for Mapleton Public School's new Adventure Elementary in Denver, CO

The ceremony was held on Tuesday, May 23rd and was open to the Mapleton community. Administration, students, staff, parents and even retired teachers who worked in the original facility attended the momentous event. The ROTC Color Guard from the high school began the afternoon with the presentation of colors. Spectators were given bubbles to blow during the dig. And while the chosen adult stakeholders performed the traditional dig with their golden shovels, a student panel was also selected to dig on behalf of their class (K-6), using personally decorated shovels to represent their various grade levels (below). At the ceremony's conclusion, students left with a coloring book page of their new school and a package of crayons provided by JHL Constructors and CRP Architects. To top off the fun, the district's superintendent, Charlotte Ciancio, decided to take a whirl at operating the backhoe onsite.

One of the most unique aspects of this ceremony was the poem read by a current 5th grader. With this being a replacement school, the poem talks about moving to a new place but still maintaining the heart of what the school means, a special place in the community:

A Moved School

The bricks, the roof, the earth below

The solid walls of what we know,

The space we fill, the scenery,

Does this make all this place can be?

The light and shade that once we sensed,

The whole community condensed

Into one whole familiar space

To what extent are we this place?

Or rather, are we hearts and minds

With bricks and mortar left behind?

The bonds we form, the friends we make

The things we need not pack to take,

The built up skills, the lessons learned,

The wealth of our respect, hard earned,

We are this school - both me and you,

And if we move, the school moves, too.

The Adventure still to come...

The new facility is a replacement building for the 1950s vintage Adventure Elementary School for Mapleton Public Schools. Mapleton has a commitment to raising expectations, providing choices for learning and removing obstacles for all students so that they can guarantee that each student is empowered to “achieve his or her dreams and contribute to his or her community, country and world”.

The new Adventure Elementary School will provide 60,500 square feet of layered learning spaces for their expeditionary learning curriculum for 500 students in grades PK– 6th. The aesthetics respond to the heritage of the people in the area it is being built in, which was historically home to the Colorado mining community. Natural & sustainable materials, as well as direct connections to the outdoors, were high priorities for the building since LEED/CHPS certification is an overarching project goal. Portions of the two-story building have been kept to one-story to maintain a more harmonious scale with the surrounding residential neighborhood. Covered porches with sloped metal roofs and dormer windows will have an inviting quality, welcoming the community to their new home. The project is scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2018. 

THROWBACK THURSDAY: from 2 Months to 20 Years

20 years ago... in 1997...

Crowds were flocking by the thousands to see Titanic in theaters...

The Spice Girls were the biggest thing to happen to pop music...

The average cost of a gallon of gas was $1.22...

Beanie Babies were taking over the world...

And Holly Burns was starting her work with CRP Architects...

With initially pursuing a medical focus in her schooling, the path of her life later drew her to the field in which she'd impact others through a different vessel. The vessel of a building.

What began as taking on a few months of contractual work in 1997 under CRP's founder, Leland Reece, evolved into a 20-year investment in the world of architectural design. While it was a preliminary 'stab' at her interest in the architectural realm, Holly was hooked from the beginning by her passion for education environments and developing innovative solutions through the built world. 

During her time at CRP, her involvement has spanned the planning, design and production of 50+ school facilities across the state of Colorado, ranging from Steamboat Springs to Colorado Springs. In the last year alone, Holly was acting Program Planner and Project Manager for over $130 million in education projects along the Front Range. A truly impressive accomplishment. 

A passion for education...

Even outside the office, Holly continues to demonstrate a deeply-rooted value for education. 12 years of her career has also been given to Pikes Peak Community College through her role as an architecture department adjunct professor. And she's a model example of continuing education and that it's never too late to achieve personal goals. Alongside an accomplished 20 year career, she took the challenge head-on to test for her official license through NCARB. This involves the study preparation and the taking of 7 intensive tests on field subjects regulated by a national accreditation board. We are proud to announce that she has officially earned her Architect License for the state of Colorado.

It's truly inspiring to see what can happen when life's path takes you on an unexpected route. Holly has been known to joke in the office that, "(She) was only supposed to be here a few months. It's now been a few decades!" And what she's accomplished in that time has transformed communities and impacted generations for another 20, 40, even 60 years to come. Here are just a few examples of her community impact and the schools that would look very differently if Holly had only worked at CRP "for a few months"...

CRP Awarded Fountain Middle School Project

Fountain School was built in 1903 and served both the middle and high school until 1954 when the original high school was built. In 1999, the current-day high school facility was constructed on the east side of town (designed by CRP and included an addition project in 2011), allowing the existing 1954 building to fully house Fountain Middle School as it remains today. Aragon Elementary now sits on the 1903 site. The images below show the existing building and aerial site plan for the current Fountain Middle School. Due to district growth and need for updated facilities, the administration decided to move forward with the reconstruction of this site, awarding the project to CRP in January of 2016. This continues our nearly 25 year relationship with Fountain-Fort Carson School District 8.

The FMS design, and construction by Art C. Klein Construction, is now complete. 

To make the transition from old to new as smooth as possible, construction is divided into multiple phases that will eventually replace the entirety of the existing school with a brand new facility on the same site. This also allows for students to remain in their current learning environment while the new addition is built on-site. The completed project will provide 200,000 sf of new classrooms, science labs, a student commons, performance stage, athletics gym and administration space. A unique landscape design instills opportunity for outdoor engagement as well as accommodations for various sporting events. The interior design incorporates the FMS school colors with a dynamic twist, using them as way-finding features.


Phase 1 Ribbon Cutting


Phase 2 will include the demolition of the existing school. We will then add the administration suite, two new gymnasiums, locker rooms, a music/bad suite and the second half of the student commons. Stay tuned for more!



August 27, 2016

The opening of Phase 1 of the remodel/addition project was commenced with a ceremonial ribbon cutting in August 2016. While the school colors are maroon and white, the ribbon-cutting was performed with a blue ribbon to celebrate the honor CMHS holds of being a Blue Ribbon School (a prestigious qualification status awarded by the U.S. Department of Education).

Phase 2 was finished in December of 2016, which concluded the entirety of the Cheyenne Mountain Remodel/Addition project. Below is a gallery of images from the grand opening and the finished project, as well as a "look-book" of the design, construction and creative process.

The New Look has everyone asking... "What makes it the Same Mountain?"

At the grand opening, CRP released a commemorative design "look-book" with in-depth information on the school's long-awaited transformation. The booklet includes project facts, insight into the design development, ways that the traditional culture was incorporated into the new facility, building floor plans and more. If you'd like to view or download a PDF version for yourself, click the link below. Or email to have one sent to you.



It was a privilege to work with such talented contractors on this project. Check out this informational project video produced by GE Johnson below.


The best part of our job is watching spaces come to life in ways we could never have imagined on the drawing board. Our newly finished CMHS project is featured as the backdrop to this student-directed music video of the 2017 CHSAA State Champion A Cappella group, Crimson & Slate! Such an honor to see such talent walk, and dance, through these hallways. However, one of the best frames in this video isn't even in a hallway... so make sure to watch through the end! 

Transformation/Throwback Thursday: SAME MOUNTAIN | NEW LOOK

This long awaited transformation went underway in planning back in April 2014. Over two years later, Cheyenne Mountain High School's new look is rapidly taking shape as we near its final completion in 6 months.

A Colorado Springs school district with a high school facility built over 60 years ago is anxious for the completion of their new 21st Century home nestled along the historic Cheyenne Mountain range. Below are some then/now comparison images taken before the school went under construction, compared to their current redevelopment stage.  

The old school lacked the identity of a main entrance. The new entrance fuses the existing gym and the new academic wing and acts as a 'lantern' for the school. (Image from 8-17-16)

THEN (left) - NOW (right)

The new student commons, located where the old patio used to be, offers the opportunity for fresh air and a connection to nature. Multiple exits & glass garage doors allow for all-day access to the outdoors for students. The new commons patio also has access to power and electricity to allow for outdoor concerts, school events, etc. (After Image updated on 8-24-16)

In both images, the wall to the far right is the wall leading into the auditorium. The space was extended out and enclosed to form the new student commons and auditorium main entrance. (After Image updated on 8-3-16)

The difference in the corridors is drastic. No more fluorescent lights and narrow passageways! And unlike the original facility, all corridors will now have access to natural light and outdoor views. (After Image updated on 8-19-16)


  • 105,000 sf of NEW space for the high school
  • Nearly 100,000 sf of existing space is remodeled
  • EVERY classroom will be brand new by January 2017
  • Expanded social circulation corridors (12+ ft wide) 
  • Separate, private corridors for access to classrooms
  • Access to natural light in hallways and classrooms
  • Improved safety with a single, secured access point (the floorplan of the old school had over 120 unlocked and accessible doors at all times of day - Now, after the first bell rings, there will only be ONE public accessible door monitored by a security checkpoint)  
  • Safer/more accessible student parking and new pick up/drop off round-about zone
  • New 8,700 sf student commons with glass garage doors to exterior courtyard
  • An iconic 'front door' - giving the school a much needed, identified main entrance
  • A 'mountain modern' design aesthetic themed throughout the entire project
  • New energy-efficient mechanical systems with air conditioning and heating
  • Personalized classroom/community 'pods' for each department in the entire school
  • New baseball field and new softball field
  • Pieces and concepts from the old school are tied into the new additions (stay tuned as the project develops to learn about how we integrated parts of CMHS history and tradition into the new design)

Students and faculty will move into the Phase 1 buildings in August of 2016... Phases 2 (additional academic wings) will be completed by December 2016! Phase 2 will conclude the entirety of the project.

You may be wondering 'when will we start seeing green?'. As designers, a characteristic of the original school we worked hard to protect was access to natural environments. One feature students have always appreciated about CMHS was the ability to be outdoors in the refreshing mountain air throughout the day. The new design improves overall safety, yet maintains the integrity of this desire by enclosing the largest outdoor courtyard (over 51,000 sf in size) in the state of Colorado. Students will be able to walk outside between classes, enjoy time outside the common's garage doors during lunch, do homework at the outdoor bar-height tables and set up concerts outside with access to electricity/power on the patios - all within the safety of the new campus. It may have a 'new look' but students will still have the same exterior connection they love. While construction progress images don't show it quite yet, we have vibrant visions for new landscaping that will lusciously shape the entire school grounds. Working side by side with Thomas & Thomas, our plans for green space will begin development soon! Click on the images below for a glimpse at the outdoor concepts.

STOP! Let's not forget about #THROWBACKTHURSDAY

As CRP Architects and GE Johnson begin demolition of existing facilities to make way for the new academic wings, we are reminded of some of the unique applications from the past. These 'traffic lights' were originally custom designed to replace a traditional bell system so that local wildlife would not be disturbed by hourly high-pitched bell tones. Only in Colorado. Some alumni have been reminiscing on pieces of Cheyenne history as they prepare to see what new traditions unfold while honoring the ones now retired. 

The “traffic light” encasements scattered throughout the halls stood as a sentinel directing the movements and attention of Cheyenne Mountain High School students throughout the day. There were no bells to signal the end of a class or beginning of a new day. In 1962, the light system was devised to ensure the wildlife surrounding the “new” hillside school would not be disturbed. Bear, mountain lions and deer were common visitors to the school grounds. We governed our social and academic lives through careful surveillance of the light boxes. Laughter and talking would fill the halls as we would all gather between classes. Yet out of the corner of our eye, we would check to see which light was shining. Once the red light started blinking, all socialization ceased as we would scatter to our classroom knowing we only had one minute to get situated into our desks. Then throughout class, our eyes would fixate on the light directing us to how much longer we would need to endure the lecture, complete the test or finalize our experiment. Yellow meant we had 20 minutes left, green gave us hope as it indicated 10 minutes of class remained. And then, the glorious red light would appear celebrating the end of class. Then the routine would begin again. The lights may have come down with the “new-new” school, but the integrity, the traditions and the exceptional education provided to the students will always remain. The redesigned and updated facility will illuminate the lives of hundreds of children for many years to come.
— CMHS Alum, Class of 1981

Special thanks to Cheyenne alum - AGL Drone Services for the progress footage updates!

THROWBACK THURSDAY: The Evolution of Fountain Fort Carson High School

Fountain, CO was established in 1859 as a railroad shipping center for the agricultural community. The first Fountain school dates back to 1888 with the first high school being built in 1954 (pictured above), nearly a century after the town's birth and the same year Fort Carson was designated from Camp Carson. The city continued to flourish and a boom in population growth drove a need for growth in the local school district as well. The community was in need of a gathering space that gave home to the city's growing population of athletes, students and their immediate families. This inspired the first phase of what would grow to become the official Fountain Fort Carson High School - and the time in which CRP was brought on board to help build this legacy. 

The beginning of FFCHS was brought to life through a new pool and athletic facility completed in 1997. This became a hub for the city, allowing the students and locals to compete, play and gather in one space. With this facility creating the foundation, design and construction was immediately underway to provide the adjacent academic spaces. 

The initial academic wing, library/media center, gym and auditorium were all constructed by 1999. The Phase II addition replaced the original high school building. Classrooms were designed in a 'cluster' arrangement with ample access to natural light and views of the sweeping front range. The library/media center is faced with a glass curtain wall to provide desired day-lighting as well as the makings for an engaging work and study space.

As the student population continued to increase, Phase III was added in 2004 and included expansion of the academic spaces, the art program and industrial arts. The addition was one story but was structured to accommodate a future second story. This story was incorporated into Phase IV.

The final phase of the FFCHS campus was the commons remodel/addition and the addition of the second story from the Phase III academic wing. The new commons area expands out from the original building line and has become one of the most iconic and recognized features of the building.

The Faces Behind Fountain

Under the direction of CRP's original founder, Holger Christiansen, Chris Mannino and Matt Kubus worked on all four phases of FFCHS. Chris, now principal and partner, has designed and built facilities in Fountain for nearly 25 years. Both Chris and Matt enjoyed watching this project grow from start to finish and spent countless hours over a span of roughly 12 years ensuring every detail was creatively and responsibly executed.

Moving Up, Topping Out

When driving past Cheyenne Mountain High School, there is no doubt that progress is moving forward rapidly with new steel pushing the building upward each and every day. There comes a sense of reality when things start going vertical; months (more like years) of hard work noticeably coming to life. And as the erection of steel comes to a close, we took the time to honor the work finished and ceremoniously welcome the next construction phases to come.

Today, CRP Architects had the privilege of attending the official "Topping Out" Ceremony for the Cheyenne Mountain High School Remodel/Addition project. This is the day in which the building structure is completed (also known as 'topped out/off') with the last piece of steel. In this case, it was the final beam to be placed. In days previous, the beam was painted white and laid out for current CMHS students and faculty members to sign. There was also an opportunity for members of the strategy team, bond campaign team, DAG members, design team, engineers/consultants and site workers to sign as well.

Over 150 community members were in attendance including various community leaders, the CMSD Board of Education, CMSD Administration, CMHS students and teachers, project engineers and design/construction team members from CRP and GE Johnson. Everyone watched in awe as the monumental crane (approx. 334,000 lbs & almost 300 ft fully extended) lifted the final beam, swung it 360 degrees (by tradition) and then gracefully lowered it into place. Claps, cheers and tears could be heard throughout the crowd as the beam was bolted tightly into place. 

This project was a community effort that began in the beginning of 2014 with the Design Advisory Group and a bond strategy team. So being able to festively thank each of those members for their hard work and allow them to visually grasp the progress two years later was a priceless sentiment. GE Johnson went above and beyond in sponsoring this event and helping all those involved forever encapsulate this special moment in their memories. The momentum going into the final construction phases holds a strong sense of togetherness and excited energy. The entirety of the project will be completed in December of 2016.

While there is no substitute for outstanding teachers, principals, and motivated students, learning environments are critical, too. When students take pride in their schools, it has a positive effect on everything else, from student academic engagement to positive student behavior. There is no comparison to the learning spaces created by CRP Architects and those they’ve replaced, and while difficult to quantify, there is no doubt in my mind that this improved learning environment is an important component of our success.
— Dr. Walt Cooper, Superintendent of Cheyenne Mountain School District #12