HMFH Architects

Historic Saugus Iron Works: Design Inspiration

Drawing from a thorough and researched understanding of the town’s history, culture, and context, the new Saugus Middle High School is grounded in history and connected to the greater spirit of the Saugus community.

Considered the birthplace of the American iron and steel industry, the Saugus Iron Works stands as a testament to the history of innovation unique to Saugus. Many architectural elements present in the Middle High School draw their form from 1600’s technology and surrounding landscape of the Saugus Iron Works. When the Iron Works was established, the technology was some of the most innovative of its time and essential to cultivating Saugus’ culture of prosperous industry. The design of the new school references this technology as a reflection of the innovative learning that drives the educational program at Saugus. As students walk the halls of the new school, architectural nods to the town’s rich history cultivate an immersive, enriching experience.

Throughout the 6-12 complex, HMFH was able to create a space that is unique to our community. From the moment you walk into the building you will notice the historical aspect of Saugus mirrored in the design.

Myra D. MontoAssociate Principal, Saugus Middle High School


The exterior of the new Saugus Middle High School is characterized by its sculptural metal-clad main entrance, which is comprised of two main volumes: the library and auditorium. The angular form is reminiscent of the accordion-shaped bellows used to power blast furnaces at the historic Saugus Iron Works.

Chimney Towers

The brick façade is broken up by multi-story curtain wall towers; the rectangular form is derived from the blast furnace chimneys of the Saugus Iron Works. The geometric framing seen the curtain wall was inspired by the contrasting metal framing of the chimneys. The distinct architectural language of the curtain wall towers highlights important areas in the school where students engage in project-based learning.

Blast Furnaces

The curved form of the multi-story lightwells reference a cross-section of the blast furnaces that powered the Iron Works and direct light deep into the academic spaces. Used to produce raw cast iron bars, the blast furnaces play a critical role in the performance of the Ironworks as the site where iron is created. The project areas and overhead lightwells function similarly as the heart of the new Middle High School, providing places where students gather to collaborate and engage in hands-on learning.

Water Sluices

Catwalks connecting academic zones over the central atrium are modeled after the wooden structures used to transport water throughout the ironworks. The catwalk bridges control the flow of circulation through the upper floors of the school in the same way the water sluices directed water from the Saugus River to power the blast furnaces.

Saugus River

For Saugus, a coastal community with a namesake river running through it, water has been a form giver and economic catalyst for centuries and today serves a similar purpose in shaping this new building. In reference to the way in which the Saugus River winds along its course and breaks up land masses, the layout of the new facility replicates this movement. Circulation routes weave throughout the building, beginning at the “main street”, a central thoroughfare through the building, and branch out to create a distinct separation between academic zones and connect shared public spaces. The layout is purposeful yet feels as if it meanders in places–much like the river.