The Concord community’s input played an integral part in developing solutions for replacing the city’s undersized, aging elementary schools with three new buildings that provide facilities on par with the district’s ambitious educational program goals.
Initiated by the district’s superintendent and based upon current understanding of brain-based research, planning for the new schools probed the very nature of K-12 learning. Input from the faculty, administration, and the local community played equal parts in the design process, which centers around three ideas: spaces should support collaborative learning; these spaces should be easily accessible by faculty and students to fully integrate them into the day-to-day learning experience; and spaces should house a range of flexible environments to support a range of learning activities.
In place of traditional libraries, the resulting program features a multi-use Learning Corridor, public spaces that weave through the schools just outside classroom doors. These spaces, designed for flexibility, integrate project-based learning into the daily curriculum, with discrete spaces for media presentation, performance, quiet individual learning, and small group projects, as well as Wi-Fi access throughout. Because every classroom in the academic wing also has a window looking out onto the learning corridor, teachers can easily supervise and observe student groups both in the classroom and in the open project areas. As the heart of the school, the learning corridor promotes collaboration between students and educators; maximizes technologies; and creates opportunities for interdisciplinary and inter-grade learning.
Each of the three new schools has a two-story academic wing with a 30-foot-wide, two-story-high learning corridor running through the center of the school. The Abbot-Downing Elementary School, which serves grades K-5, replaced the former Conant School site and echoes design elements from the original school building including the reuse of its signature cupola. Named to honor the Concord teacher and astronaut who died in the Challenger shuttle disaster, the Christa McAuliffe Elementary School acknowledges its history by incorporating the ornate granite entryway from the former Kimball School, and continues a legacy of public school structures that have occupied that site since 1887. The Mill Brook Primary School, a PK-2 school, was added to the campus of an existing 3-5 school, and is distinguished by the use of a childlike-block exterior.
All three new schools are constructed with extensive recycled and locally produced materials, and will be Northeast-CHPS certified as green school buildings, meeting strict sustainability standards.
Location: Concord, NH, US
My Role: Architect
Additional Credits: Harvey Construction Corporation, General Contractor
RFS Engineering, MEP/Structural Engineer
Nobis Engineering, Civil Engineer