Martin Luther King Junior School / Perkins Eastman

Martin Luther King Junior School

Cambridge, Massachusetts
At 170,000 sf, this complex in Cambridge, Massachusetts, accommodates 740 students in three schools: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School for grades K-5; Putnam Avenue Upper School for grades 6-8; and preschool, after-school, and community school programs by the Department of Human Services.

Designed to truly engage the community, the academic wings for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School and the Putnam Avenue Upper School operate as distinct “neighborhoods” with their own front door, connected by the internal King Street. The shared community spaces—library/media room, cafeteria, gymnasiums, and auditorium—are located in the “heart” of the building and are accessible from King Street for after-hours use. Having these three different zones in the building achieves many things: each academic wing has its own “front door”; the academic wings can be made inaccessible for security purposes, allowing use of the shared community spaces separately; and the building ventilation systems, segregated by zone and use, can “turn on” only when needed, thereby saving energy.

Within each neighborhood there are extended learning spaces where a niche or alcove in the corridor operates as a small group learning center but also creates a break in the corridor for natural light and views, echoing the rhythm of street outside.

Corridors throughout feature cutouts in the walls that show the building’s mechanical systems at work, with signage that explains these systems and processes so students can understand how the energy they use, and save, manifests. In support of extending learning into the environment, the school includes a City Sprouts garden, outdoor hard and softscape areas, a preschool playground, a teacher’s patio, a courtyard garden featuring an indoor/outdoor performance space, and—taking advantage of the compact urban site—roof terraces.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School is targeting LEED Platinum certification and is projected to have an Energy Use Intensity 60% less than typical educational buildings in New England. Included among its many sustainable design attributes are:

•         65 geothermal wells that support the heating/cooling system;
•         1,615 photovoltaic panels on the roof, which are estimated to provide 47% of the school’s required energy;
•         two 10,000-gallon cisterns for stormwater reclamation (located under the parking garage); and
•         interior and exterior light shelves and shading devices that bounce light deep into classrooms while blocking direct heat gain during the hot summer months.
AWARDS
Learning By Design Architectural Awards, Grand Prize (2017)
Press
School Construction NewsSustainable School Celebrates Topping Out