HMFH Architects Inc.

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Black, Female, LGBTQIA+ owned

Cambridge, MA


Designed by HMFH Architects, Three Innovative Elementary Schools Open in Concord, NH

By lizab
Dec 10, '12 12:14 PM EST
photo: Ed Wonsek
photo: Ed Wonsek

HMFH Architects, a Cambridge-based architectural firm focused on the design of student living and learning environments, announces the opening of three new elementary schools it designed for the Concord, New Hampshire, School District. Recognized for its user-centered design and energetic use of color, HMFH was selected by the Concord school district to design three new schools on par with the district’s ambitious educational program goals.

“After witnessing the public tour our new schools, I was overwhelmed with pride at all the positive reactions to the design,” said Matt Cashman, director of facilities and planning for the Concord School District, in reference to the response to the schools’ opening events. “I am honored to have worked with such a high caliber team of designers and professionals. HMFH has raised the bar in New Hampshire.”

Initiated by the system’s superintendent, Christine Rath, 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 local community played integral parts in the design process, which centered around three visionary ideas:

1. Spaces should support collaborative learning;
2. These collaborative spaces should be easily accessible by faculty and students to fully integrate them into the day-to-day learning experience; and
3. These spaces need to provide a variety of flexible environments to support a range of learning activities.

The resulting program features a two-story, 30-foot-wide Learning Corridor in place of a traditional library room with a variety of highly visible and easily accessible educational environments to encourage project-based learning and collaboration, and to support a range of learning styles and curriculum delivery methods.

“The Concord school district’s forward-looking vision for its new schools challenged us to rethink the standards for elementary school facilities,” said Laura Wernick, AIA, REFP, LEED® AP, senior principal at HMFH Architects. “These projects create a new paradigm for K-5 academic environments.  It is a model that provides a range of collaborative and personalized spaces for a wide variety of learning styles and activities while assuring advanced access to technology and flexibility for changing needs. The Learning Corridor ushers students and faculty into the next generation of education.”

The recently completed Abbott-Downing Elementary School, Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, and Mill Brook Primary School will now house most of Concord’s K-5 students. A grand opening ceremony was held on August 26th with a ribbon cutting and speeches at each of the three schools.  Although organized around the same Learning Corridor concept, each school is unique.

The Abbott-Downing Elementary School is located adjacent to 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 25 years ago 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 uses a colorful, childlike-block design to distinguish it from the adjacent Broken Ground Elementary School.

The Learning Corridor includes spaces for:
• Group discussion
• Wet/messy projects
• Multimedia
• Amphitheater
• Story-telling
• Book room similar to a traditional library space
• Small project room
• A “reading nook” for quiet individual learning.

All three new schools were constructed with extensive recycled and locally produced materials and will be Northeast Collaborative for High Performance Schools (NE-CHPS) certified as green school buildings, meeting strict sustainability standards.

Harvey Construction Corporation served as the project contractor.

About HMFH Architects
Since 1969, HMFH Architects, Inc. has built opportunities for learning on a local, regional and national level. With its distinguished range of award-winning work from renovated urban buildings to new rural campuses, HMFH is recognized as a leader in the design of innovative academic environments. HMFH's work, noted for its user-centered design and energetic use of color, has been exhibited nationally.  For more information, please visit

Media Contact:
Susan Shelby, FSMPS, CPSM
Rhino Public Relations
(978) 985-4541

Not Old School: Architecture in Support of Learning