William H. Lincoln Elementary School

Lincoln School

Graham Gund Architects, 1994

Harleston Parker Medal, 1999

Buried in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the school’s form responds to the give and take of a community design process. Its meandering plan fills the interstitial areas between the surrounding houses, while creating its own educational village for students and teachers.

The battle between high educational aspirations and safe residential retreats is part of the political landscape in suburban communities, and Lincoln School suggests one approach to structuring a truce. The building is long and low with pitched roofs reducing the apparent mass, and dormers adding it back where needed. An interior street pulls the fragmented forms together around an entry drive fronting community facilities. It is a brilliant planning strategy made manifest by the embracing spaces that are both cozy and public spirited.

More questionable is the historicist architecture, with a tower, pediments, and ornamentation evoking the past rather than the future – its central “little red schoolhouse” icon surrounded by the expansive spaces needed for contemporary education. The Lincoln offers one of many possible answers to the questions that communities will increasingly be asking.

Source: HPM Jury comments