The weaving of interior architecture, architecture, culture, scale, and story is so delightfully constructed. There is thought and craft at every corner.
The Saugus Middle High School is the recipient of the 2021 Grand Prize in Learning by Design’s Educational Architecture Awards of Excellence, a national recognition for exceptional educational design.
The jury cited the success of the design in weaving the architecture together with the school and town culture, history, and context; its innovative sustainability practices; and the adept integration of two schools into one facility that supports next-generation learning.
The show of appreciation to the community spirit and the area’s history was unique and innovative and leads to creative design elements throughout the building.
Sited along bustling Route 1, and near the Saugus Iron Works National Historic Site, the new school brings together 1,360 students in a STEAM-driven complex of fabrication labs, collaboration spaces, and project areas. Drawing from Saugus’ local ecology and rich history of innovation, the design interprets prominent elements from the Iron Works—considered the birthplace of the American iron and steel industry—to characterize the learning environments. Visible to those passing by on Route 1, the new facility is easily recognized by its distinct metal-clad form derived from the huge bellows used to power blast furnaces at the Iron Works and the clapboard exteriors of Saugus’ 17th-Century colonial buildings.
The building contains three primary places of learning or “pods”, each identified by one of Saugus’ pioneering industries. Project areas within the pods are illuminated by sweeping, multi-story lightwells inspired by the architectural form of the iron works blast furnace chimneys, while intricate wall graphics pay homage to 17th century ironwork technology and the ice and lobstering industries.
The middle and high school are connected through shared public spaces including a 750-seat auditorium, cafeteria, gym and Starbucks-style student café that also reflect Saugus’ historical context with soaring graphics honoring town landmarks and people. Circulation routes through the building help organize the educational and public spaces in a layout that is purposeful yet meanders in places–much like the Saugus River.
Click here to see the new Saugus Middle High School featured in the Spring 2021 issue of Learning by Design.