HMFH Architects

Building a School
Community Vision

Visioning is an essential component of the architectural design process and is even more critical in the public education sector, as a K-12 school building is a once-in-a-lifetime undertaking for most communities.

HMFH is well-versed in the educational visioning process, and we take pride in how we guide a community to articulate project goals tailored to their unique needs. Our latest visioning process for Andover High School kicks off the design of this 1,900-student school.

Spread the Word

The impact of a public project is widespread, so engaging an equally broad and representative set of community voices is a critical first step. Since the feasibility study began last fall, the Andover design team has facilitated nine community forums and tours, led three sustainability workshops, and participated in over fifteen meetings with different groups and committees across Andover, including town departments and student clubs. These community forums, departmental meetings, and frequent school building committee reviews are among the many public opportunities for input.

Identify Challenges

Insight from students, teachers, and faculty is invaluable during early planning sessions when determining what is and isn’t working in the current school building. A successful visioning process goes beyond simply improving an overcrowded and outdated school to explore new ideas for effective teaching and learning.

For example, our team hosted an interactive workshop with the Andover robotics club that revealed a need for flexible, multi-purpose space and inspired concepts for a designated engineering suite in the preliminary design options.

Establish Precedents

An effective strategy for crafting a project vision is to draw from precedents. Using HMFH designs and other recent, relevant projects of similar scope as examples, the Andover team presented a wide range of design possibilities. Referencing completed work provides context for high-level design concepts and showcases how different spaces, furnishings, and adjacencies facilitate teaching and learning. From there, we establish architectural priorities and a cohesive design language for the project.

Stakeholders in Andover toured recently completed projects comparable to their high school, including Brookline High School, Danvers High School, and HMFH’s Arlington High School. Arlington was chosen as a precedent for its emphasis on collaborative, STEAM-driven learning and all-electric, fossil fuel-free design—all key objectives for Andover.

Set Goals

Establishing a concrete set of goals for the project design is the final step of the visioning process. For Andover, we developed project goals in four areas: educational, facility, site, and sustainability. Some examples include:

  • Support all students with opportunities for hands-on, project-based learning opportunities
  • Provide at least 90% of regularly occupied spaces with daylight and views
  • Introduce flexible outdoor learning spaces
  • Design an all-electric, net-zero energy building

An ideal project vision is born from a process in which all community members are invited and able to contribute. As the Andover project progresses, the critical input we received during the visioning process will continue to guide all design decisions, assuring an outcome that not only meets its educational purpose and inspires the next generation but is also a valued community resource.