The Roeper School Learning Commons

The Roeper School’s upper campus expansion presented an opportunity to create places for academic and social interaction that better serve the needs of middle and high school students. HMFH transformed an existing courtyard into a learning commons with student dining, flexible group and individual workspaces, and integration of evolving technology.


Birmingham, MI

Size (new)

10,200 sf

Size (renovation)

9,300 sf


6 – 12



“We designed this area as the center of the school so students and staff can all interact with each other both purposefully and accidentally. Architecturally, this is closer to the way we teach.”

David Feldman | Former Head of School, Roeper School

The design helps students transition from the small-scale, cozy learning pods of the lower school campus to the larger and more formal classroom organization of the upper school. The dining and collaboration spaces of the tri-level commons act as the literal and figurative heart of the upper school campus and are used throughout the day as a multi-purpose gathering space and hub for academic and social activities. The third floor mezzanine and repurposed second-floor library provide more contemplative and focused atmospheres, where students can work in small groups, meet one-to-one with teachers, or read in a quiet, sunny spot.

“The characteristics of Roeper include a strong sense of community and an awareness of the outside world. This space reflects that by connecting us with each other and with the outside world. It is beautiful and feels wonderful.”

Buck Baker | Former Chair, Roeper School Board of Trustees

The design resolves several technical challenges, including accommodation of an existing scene shop and boiler room within the courtyard, relocation of building services, and comprehensive accessibility for the multi-story building. Skylights bring daylight into the core of the space, with interior glazing to enhance the visual connection between the surrounding corridor and the commons.

  • Section Award for Interior Lighting, IES Illumination Awards, 2018
  • Outstanding Design, American School & University Architectural Portfolio Awards, 2018
  • Photography, Ed Wonsek
  • Videography, Shave Media