Florida Ruffin Ridley School Earns Copper in Architecture Award

Florida Ruffin Ridley School Earns Copper in Architecture Award


HMFH’s design of the Florida Ruffin Ridley School in Brookline, MA received a Copper in Architecture Award from the Copper Development Association.

When the 227,000 sf Florida Ruffin Ridley School, Brookline’s largest elementary school, faced severe overcrowding, comprehensive additions and renovations became necessary. Built in 1913, the original school building has historic significance and was the school that President John F. Kennedy attended. It was important to the community that the building retained its historic significance and character while still being updated to best support Brookline’s strong educational program. Using copper throughout the design was integral to maintaining the building’s historic character and referencing it in contemporary ways.

Historic Identity

An iconic feature of the existing 1913 building was a patinated copper cupola, and this element served as a central component in the design of the added academic wings and the material choice of pre-patinated copper used throughout. The front entrance of the school features the original entryway and cupola as central elements; the view from the back of the school also prominently features the cupola, which serves as a grounding element that unites the new spaces with the existing.

Merging Old and New

On the exterior of the added spaces, 5,775 sf of pre-patinated copper cladding further reinforce the connection between old and new, historic and contemporary. The design team carefully used the copper to accentuate significant areas that include entrances, community spaces, and the cafeteria and gym. This accenting also breaks up the massing of the large school, providing visually interesting highlights against the exterior masonry. Copper’s timeless quality allows views from any angle of the school to be both modern and classic.

Copper as a Learning Tool

Beyond creating cohesiveness between the additions and existing areas of the school, the choice of copper also responds to the community’s interest in using the building and its surrounding environment as a teaching tool. The aging process of copper, causing the building to change over time, creates opportunities for educators to incorporate their learning environment into the curriculum—students can engage directly with their learning environment in discussions of both natural process and historical context.