The Dearborn STEM Middle/High School by Jonathon Levi of Jonathon Levi Architects is a $58M, 128,000 square-foot City of Boston public middle and high school that supports STEM learning through a series of sub-buildings, each with a scale and orientation relating to its surroundings
It is among the first in the nation to be purpose-built from the ground up to inspire and support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning and teaching.
For its community-led and inspired design, The Dearborn STEM Middle/High School has recently been awarded a 2022 American Architecture Award by The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design and The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies.
The academy is the first new school project to be undertaken by the City of Boston in over two decades.
It represents a renewed commitment to serving the underprivileged Roxbury neighborhood community, its youth, and its future.
The community initiated and stewarded the project in many ways, prodding the City government to take action.
STEM education is greater than the sum of its component disciplines; it is an educational culture based on student-driven interdisciplinary exploration where the building environment plays no less than a central role.
Through the interpenetration of spaces, transparency, blurred boundaries between public and private, and the ubiquity of collaborative learning resources, the students are enabled to inspire one another to excel in their academics.
Their collaborative work is interactively displayed, not only in its completion but in the excitement of research and discovery.
The facility plan diagram is the product of both inward and outward forces.
The site, located at an intersection between three competing city grids, is highly impacted by the surrounding urban fabric.
The building responds with a perimeter of classroom sub-buildings, each with a scale and orientation relating to its surroundings.
Fully glazed science “exploratory” classrooms command the center of each street elevation.
At the voided core is the central educational space—the Learning Commons—with its associated foodservice and ring of ground floor shared core destinations: art, music, maker, high-powered computing laboratory, digital fabrication, media center, dance, and physical training.
Also adjoining the Learning Commons is the gymnasium, visible through the acoustic glass to every school corner.
Rising from the Learning Commons, the active monumental stair spirals up past the second-floor entry and main administration level to the classroom floors, each with its age cohort (11-12, 8-10, and 6-7) and nucleus of satellite collaboration balconies and related cohort administration/reception suites.
Team teaching-oriented paired classrooms are connected by high acoustic performance operable partitions and a shared teacher office, which allows for the removal of the fixed teacher’s desk from the classroom for greater flexibility.
The teacher’s offices are entirely enclosed in glass and projected into the public space of the building—promoting the visibility of teacher activities and allowing for optimal supervision, both horizontally and vertically, of the adjoining atrium.
The building is shaped in a way that gives form to the collaborative, student-driven learning experience it houses.
One with its dense site at the center of one of Boston’s most deserving, aspiring communities and reaching out to the surrounding city, community and student participants are drawn into an atrium vortex of mutually visible, inspirational activity.
The entirety of the building’s program is therefore visible to itself, with student achievement shared and celebrated.
As a school endeavoring to entice students into STEM career pathways, the building itself is offered as a teaching tool.
Featured integral elements of the building include the differentiated south and east/west sun control elements, exposed balcony suspension steel, illuminated HVAC ring duct above mesh ceilings, and color-coded glass-enclosed mechanical penthouse are meant to excite technological curiosity further.
Project: Dearborn STEM Middle/High School
Architects: Jonathan Levi Architects
Lead Architect: Jonathan Levi
General Contractor: Gilbane Building Company
Client: City of Boston
Photographers: David LenaPhotography. Paul Warchol and Peter Vanderwarker