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Newton North High School wins architectural award

Posted by Shivaji Mudambi  January 31, 2012 12:06 PM

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The Boston Society of Architects (BSA) presented Gund Partnership with the 2011 Award for Design Excellence for its work on Newton North High school, according to the group's website.

The Honor Awards for Design Excellence are decided by a jury who take into account aesthetics, functionality, sustainability, and social aspects of a project's design when evaluating submissions.

Here's what the jury had to say about Newton North High:

The jury unanimously agreed that this project raises the standard of excellence for high school academic design. The campus and its building reflect the architect's respect for the students and teachers. We thought the new layout for the site, which brings the entrance to the school into play with the sports field, was brilliant: a thoroughly handsome and appropriate entry sequence that sets the stage for the dignity and openness of the school. Students must love being there. We were impressed by the model simplicity and clarity of the gym. Truly this is an academic village, a civic and educational gift to the present and future. The commitment to excellence by the school board and the community are exemplary.

The jurors also responded to the emphasis on natural light in the classrooms, which according to jury chairman Frank Harman helps boost productivity. Surprisingly, sunlight helps socializing as well, though socializing and productivity are sometimes mutually exclusive in high school.

“So much of a conversation is about seeing the person’s face and following their facial expressions, and light coming from more directions helps that and facilitates the conversation. High school is about building relationships, which you do through conversation, so you could say that daylight builds relationships,” he added with a chuckle.

Harman, who also runs a construction firm in North Carolina, particularly approved of the the playing field’s location, as conventional layouts place it relatively far from the academic buildings. "Down here, [North Carolina] high schools take up an inordinate amount of real estate and part of what we liked was that this high school used the space so wisely.”

It also, in his eyes, made a statement about the school’s philosophy, and the place of sports in high school and college life. Sports in these settings are famous for being an important yet detached part of the campus community, especially academics, a notion often reinforced by the trek out to the stadium, Harman believes.

“College teams are almost like a nation apart, but here’s a high school making a statement that ‘we are going to make academics and sports one in the same’,” he said, “it reminds me of the Romans, who used to have their colosseums right in the middle of town.”

Shivaji Mudambi can be reached at shivaji.mudambi@globe.com.

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