A strong diagonal form accentuates the main entry of the campus center at what is now the State University of New York's Polytechnic Institute in Utica. The 85,000-square-foot facility, which was completed in 1987 at a cost of $9.1 million, was featured in American School & University's 1988 Architectural Portfolio. When the center opened, the campus was known as the State University of New York College of Technology at Utica-Rome. A few years later, it was renamed State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica-Rome. Its name became SUNY Polytechnic Institute, or more commonly, SUNY Poly, in 2014, when the Institute of Technology merged with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) in Albany.
Hendrick Middle School opened in 1987 in Plano, Texas. Jurors in American School & University's 1988 Architectural Portfolio awarded a citation to the school's design, singling out its "attractive handling of natural lighting." One example of that is depicted in this photo—the large skylight that illuminates the school's media center with daylight.
Despite the snow blanketing the grounds in this 1986 photo of the newly built Student Center at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, the jurors in American School & University's 1986 Architectural Portfolio found the 28,000-square-foot building "warm and inviting." So much so that the project was awarded the Louis I. Kahn Citation as the top higher-education design in that year's competition.
"This building...creates harmony with its carefree neighbors while expressing a personality and style of its own," the jurors said.
Soon after it opened, the center was renamed Cotter Union in honor of the college's president, Bill Cotter. The college built an 18,000-square-foot environmentally friendly addition to the Union in 2008 that received LEED silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
Whitaker Elementary School in El Paso, Texas, was completed in 1987 and its design received the top prize for elementary facility design, the William W. Caudill Citation, in American School & University's 1988 Architectural Portfolio. The El Paso district sought a building design different from the "brick box" facilities that were typical at the time, and that's what it got. The facility was designed to be an extension of a school playground and is meant to look like a giant piece of playground equipment.
Jurors of the competition were struck by the school's "playful, child-oriented, almost whimsical architectural vocabulary."
Benjamin Rush Junior High School, which opened in 1984 in Rushville, Ind., received a citation in AS&U's 1985 Architectural Portfolio for outstanding school design. The school, now known as Benjamin Rush Middle School, was singled out for its "unique interior diagonal corridor."
"The use of glass, brick angles and colors creates a warm environment for students," the competition jurors said.
Oxford High School, built in 1982 for $17.6 million in Oxford, Mich., received a citation for exemplary education design in American School & University's inaugural Architectural Portfolio in November 1983.
The site's rolling countryside enabled the designers to incorporate earth sheltering to reduce heat loss. That and other energy-saving techniques resulted in a facility that consumed energy at a rate 50 percent less than a conventional high school of the same size.
The competition's jurors found that the school design resulted in "an ambitious building that incorporates earth sheltering and solar design into a lively sequence of spaces."
The building served as the high school for Oxford Community Schools until 2004, when the district converted and expanded its existing middle school into a high school, and converted the 1982 high school campus to a middle school.
A 1982 renovation of the Ames Courtroom in Harvard Law School's Austin Hall received a citation for exemplary education design in American School & University's 1983 Architectural Portfolio. The judges said, "This piece of work displays the architect's respect for the past as renovation complements and enhances the original architecture."
Lee Burneson Junior High School in Westlake, Ohio, was the first-ever recipient of the William W. Caudill Citation for exemplary education design.
The $3 million project, designed by Lesko Architecture, was completed in 1982 and was an entrant in American School & University's inaugural Architectural Portfolio in 1983.
The work consisted of a new facility constructed around an existing building. Once the new space was completed, the old building was demolished.
Jurors described the completed junior high as "an elegant composition of a world-class facility."
In the intervening years, the facility became known as a middle school rather than a junior high. After voters approved a bond issue in 2010, the district constructed a new Lee Burneson Middle School, which opened in 2013. The old middle school facility was converted to Dover Intermediate School, which opened in 2014 for grades 5 and 6.
Daylighting and enhanced security were key elements of the 1985 renovations and additions at Powell High School in Knoxville, Tenn., which were featured in American School & University in the 1985 Architectural Portfolio.
The $5 million project created a skylighted lobby that provided natural light to an interior greenhouse and improved security by acting as a buffer zone between classrooms and new public areas--a 1,500-seat gym and a 600-seat auditorium.
Every year, American School & University's Architectural Portfolio awards citations for education facilities with exemplary design (download a list of 2015 winners here).
The Louis I. Kahn Citation recognizes what judges deem the best higher-education design. Thirty years ago, in the 1985 Architectural Portfolio, the Kahn Citation went to the Walter Royal Davis Library at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
The 438,000-square-foot facility, designed by Mitchell/Giurgola Architects, was described by Portfolio jurors as a "sensitive treatment of an enormous building mass on a restricted site."
The Davis Library, which was completed in 1984, still serves as the university's central library.
Canyon Lake Elementary School in Rapid City, S.D., "the Gateway to the Black Hills," was featured in the 1950-51 American School & University. Sixty-five years later, the facility still serves as an elementary school campus for the Rapid City Area school district.
Only a small percentage of students in high school in the 1920s enrolled in chemistry class, according to the 1928-29 American School & University. Because there were not enough classes to keep a separate laboratory in constant use, the prevailing wisdom at the time, as depicted at Ramer School in Montgomery County, Ala., was to provide space at one end of a classroom/lab for scientific experiments and demonstrations.
Veterans Memorial School in Reno, Nev., now is on the National Register of Historic Places, but back in 1949, it was just one of many new schools built after World War II to provide classroom space for the first members of the burgeoning Baby Boom generation. The school was featured in the 1950-51 American School & University.
Reno Historical, a collection at the University of Nevada Reno, says Veterans Memorial was built at a cost of $360,399.45 to relieve crowding in a city that had grown by 50 percent since the end of the war. It is described as a benchmark for education in post-war Reno. "In the decade following its construction, 22 schools were built in Reno, all drawing on the standards it had set," Reno Historical says.
The National Register of Historic Places recognizes the school for its Art Deco/Moderne style of architecture by architect Russell Mills.
"The school was the first in the Reno School District (later to become the Washoe County School District) to incorporate design features intended to enhance the educational experience and to utilize the latest building technology," the National Register says.
Boyden High School (top) was built in 1926 in Salisbury, N.C. For $535,000 ($475,000 for construction, $50,000 for furniture and $10,000 for landscaping, the community got a 1,000-student, 61-classroom campus with a 1,000-seat auditorium and a large gymnasium. "The exterior is faced witih rough-texture buff brick with cream-colored terra-cotta trimmings," architect C. Gadsen Sayre wrote in the 1928-29 American School & University.
Eighty-nine years after it opened, the sturdy structure remains an active high school, albeit with a different name. According to the Rowan-Salisbury School System, six additions have been built on the campus over the years, and in 1970, Boyden merged with J.C. Price High School to become Salisbury High School (bottom).
The building was added in 1996 to The National Register of Historic Places.
This biology laboratory in a Fairport, N.Y., high school appears to lack anything that would indicate "science" or "laboratory" to a modern student or educator. But in 1928, when this photo appeared in American School & University, only about half of the students who attended high school took science classes, and the concept of a separate space for biology, chemistry or physics classes was still evolving. If proper furniture is selected, a specialist with the U.S. Bureau of Education wrote, the laboratory space could double as a lecture room. The lab shown is outfitted with 15-foot wooden tables designed to accommodate six students that face the instructor. "The laboratory is therefore suitable for recitation work as well as demonstration," the specialist wrote.
Balancing sunlight and shade has been a challenge that designers have been addressing for many years. At this unidentified school, as depicted in the 1951-52 American School & University, the combination of clerestory windows and exterior louvers shielded classrooms frm the south sky. "The sill of the clerestory and the lowest louver blades prevent any direct viewing of the sky," the article states.
Where would Richie and Potsie and other 1950s-era college students meet up on campus before heading off to the sock hop? Probably a snack shop like this one, housed in a men's residence hall at Indiana University in Bloomington as depicted in the 1950-51 American School & University. All that's missing is the jukebox.
In the ancient days before tablets and laptops, or even the Apple II and the IBM Selectric, students created documents by pounding on the keys of manual typewriters, and many schools offered classes to teach touch-typing to students. The click-clack of a couple of dozen of these machines, periodically interrupted by the ringing bell of the carriage return, left no doubt to those passing through the corridor that students were busy at their work.
Here is an example of a 1920s-era typing classroom from Hendersonville High School in Hendersonville, N.C., as it appeared in the 1928-29 American School & University.
Modern classroom design trends call for flexible arrangements and easily reconfigured space. But in the 1950s, conformity was king, and nothing in a classroom says conformity like straight rows of desks and students facing forward toward their teacher. Here's a typical example from the 1951-52 American School & University--Central Elementary School in Richfield, Minn.
Modern college libraries have become places for students to socialize and technology-laden centers for information gathering, but looking the photo of the library that opened in 1949 at Iona College in New Rochelle, N.Y., you can tell the spartan space was designed for serious studying.
Glengary School in Walled Lake, Mich., was highlighted in the 1950-51 American School & University for its "interesting use of windows." The facility still is in use as an elementary school in the Walled Lake Consolidated District.
A new dining hall at Indiana University in Bloomington was highlighted in the 1950-51 American School & University. Students could enjoy a meal with more than 1,000 of their closest friends. Flexibility was emphasized as well--the article noted that the space was designed so that it could be converted easily to a venue for school dances.
A remodeling and expansion of the Davidson School in Tucson, Ariz., was featured in the 1951-52 American School & University. "Old (remodeled) and new construction blend to make a very modern school." The original Davidson was built in 1910 and underwent several renovations through the years. In the early 2000s, the district decided to tear down the school, and a new Davidson campus opened in 2006.
The Katherine Delmar Burke School, a private school for girls in San Francisco, Calif., was featured in the 1951 American School & University. Girls attending the school were able to take advantage of the mild California weather and eat lunch on the school's outdoor patio.
In 1948, what was then known as Michigan State College in East Lansing built one of the largest facilities on its growing campus--the Natural Science Building. The 1950-51 American School & University called attention to the building's magnitude--225,000 square feet of space, and 157 labs, offices, and lecture and recitation rooms.
The building still is an integral part of the campus of Michigan State University.
Architects and educators stress the need for flexibility in modern school designers, but that has been a constant goal that many schools have strived to achieve for decades. The Wing Lake School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., designed by O'Dell, Hewlett and Luckenbach, was featured in the 1950-51 American School & University. A description of the layout: "The classrooms feature informality and flexibility for a diversified learning program."
Horace Mann Elementary School in Rochester, Minn., was highlighted in the 1950-51 American School & University. A wall of windows provides the classroom with plenty of daylight, and the surfaces "provide ample space for display of creative work."
Sixty-five years later, the building still serves as a school, but the campus now is known as Lincoln K-8 Districtwide School, sometimes also called "Lincoln at Mann." It one of several choice schools in the Rochester district, and student must apply to attend.
Benjamin Franklin Elementary School opened in Little Rock, Ark., in 1949. The 1950-51 American School & University noted that the school design "followed the trend to one-story structures."
"The hazards of fire and accidents are strong factors in reducing the number of stories and thereby eliminating stairways," the article stated.
The report also another post-war education trend: "For elementary schools, there should be a minimum of one teacher per grade."
The building still is in use as an elementary school in Little Rock. The district's web site says that the 1949 building has had two additions built--one in 1954 and one in 1989.
Student housing, circa 1950. No computer? No stereo? No cable? The enterprising college student of 1950 didn't need those amenities to make a residence hall a home, because, for the most part, those things weren't available yet. The photo from the 1950-51 American School & University shows some of the features found in a residence hall at Indiana University.
As depicted in this photograph from the 1951-52 American School & University, this spacious kindergarten classroom at Hillsborough Elementary School in Hillsborough Township, N.J., has numerous activity spaces and plenty of sunlight.
The emphasis on using daylight to illuminate schools may seem to be a new phenomenon in education facility design, but for years, planners have been looking for ways to bring natural light into schools. The 1951-52 American School & University highlighted the daylighting strategy used at Central Elementary School in Richfield, Minn. Glass blocks were placed throughout the brick wall of an interior hallway to admit ample amounts of light with a low maintenance cost.
The facility no longer serves as an elementary school. The district says it houses an alternative education school and other programs.
Webster Garfield Elementary School in Butte, Mont., was one of many facilities built after World War II to educate the burgeoning Baby Boomer generation.
In 2015, the Butte school district's web site notes that Webster Garfield was cited as one of America´s outstanding school buildings with "16 classrooms, rooms for sewing, cooking, gym, library, music room, auditorium and three health department rooms--all which was unheard of in those days."
The campus no longer is used as an elementary school. It houses numerous Butte district programs, include adult education, special education and an alternative education school.
Texas Christian University's Fine Arts Building and Auditorium, designed in a Neo-Georgian style, opened in 1949 on the Fort Worth campus and was featured in the 1950-51 American School & University. The building has since been renamed Ed Landreth Hall and continues to serve as a venue for the university's music and theater productions and programs. The facility also has gained attention for playing host to the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Young Baby Boomers were ready to learn in a daylight-filled classroom at Webster Garfield Elementary School in Butte, Mont. The school, built in 1949, was highlighted in the 1950-51 American School & University as an outstanding school design. (To see the campus exterior, go to the next slide.)
Irmo High School, built in 1935 in Irmo, S.C., replaced a structure built in 1928. The new building was described in American School & University as "a modern school in a small town." The building served as the town's high school until a new facility was constructed in 1964.
As documented in the 1950-51 American School & University, "panicky citizens" (predominantly white men) attended a public hearing (smoking allowed, even expected) to discuss what to do about the space shortage in Orange, Texas, public schools, where enrollment had jumped from 2,000 to 9,000 students.
The population in Orange swelled during the 1940s to as much as 60,000 when the area was home to a wartime U.S. Naval Station. It became a Naval Reserve base in 1975, and was decommissioned completely in 2008.
The city's population in 2013 was 18,922, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
In the years to follow, the Palestra, the University of Pennsylvania's basketball arena, would become known as a mecca for basketball. When it was featured in American School & University in 1931-32, the arena and the adjoining Hutchinson gymnasium were only a few years old. More than 80 years later, both facilities are still in use. The Hutchinson gym underwent an extensive renovation and reopened in 2013.
What could $130,000 buy in 1931? Your very own elementary school. That's what it cost to build Whittier Elementary School in Harvey, Ill., according to AS&U archives.
The Mitchell Whirl, or Merry Whirl, was one of playground equipment options advertised to school facility planners in the 1932-33 American School & University.
In 1933, this modern contraption from Samson Electric Co. promised faster and more efficient school communications. It enabled announcements from the school principal to "reach all rooms at the same time."
Columbia High School opened this facility in Maplewood, N.J., in 1927. The architect, James O. Betelle, said in American School & University that "few schools in the country of its size...contain a greater number of such fine educational facilities." The District of South Orange and Maplewood has added on to the building several times over the years, and after 88 years, the school still is home to 1,900 students.
This vintage bus from the 1930s is how many students in the Cumberland County (N.C.) district got to and from school.
This 1935 photograph from Bristol School in Webster Groves, Mo., shows off the latest innovation in food service operations: a kitchen/cafeteria where meals were prepared and served in the same space.
This Depression-era kindergarten classroom at West Middle School in Hartford, Conn., has few adornments, but does provide lots of open space and natural light.
School security was a concern 80 years ago. This photo from 1935 shows a fence installed around a school playground in Sewickley, Pa., to protect students.
Schools in the early 20th Century, like this one in Portland, Ore., featured large windows to capitalize on daylight — the only light available at the time. But daylighting is making a comeback for its environmental advantages, health benefits and impact on energy costs. (Photo courtesy of Syska Hennessy Group.)
Displayed in a Sheldon Laboratory Systems product showroom in Crystal Springs, Miss., this science laboratory table was the cutting edge of school lab fixtures in 1959. Sheldon, a wood science casework manufacturer for K-12 and university science labs, is still in business today.
In the 1920s pools were situated in the basement and had heaters to keep the water warm. The Baltimore City College's pool seated about 200 spectators.
In 1985, classrooms lacked technology in the classrooms. What kind of technology do you have in your classrooms?
This is the inside of the University of Notre Dame Law School in Notre Dame, Ind. It was renovated in 1987. Libraries today have less books and more computers. The card catalog are computerized in 2015.
Virco created the Universal Data Station in 1985. This desk was marketed toward Grade 1 through University levels. The Data stations adjusted to fit every educational need.
Classroom lighting has come a long way since 1927. Back then, classrooms used eight 200-watt lamps with diffusing globes. The average illumination was 9 foot-candles.
In 1927, heating and ventilation were one of the more perplexing problems throughout the country. Here is a typical classroom in New York City.
The George Inness Junior High School in Montclair, N.J., completed in the fall of 1927. The school was built in the "H" type of plan with a centralized auditorium at the rear and two (one boys and one girls) gymnasiums on the front carried directly up into the pitched roofs.
Libraries in the 1920s had books and card catalogs no computers or multipurpose spaces like we do in 2000's.
The auditorium at Piedmont Junior High School in Charlotte, N.C., had a seating capacity of 1,030 people and is composed of a main floor and balcony. A moving-picture booth was incorporated in the design to display pictures and to furnish spotlights for the stage.
The manual training department at Piedmont Junior High School in Charlotte, N.C., was fully equipped with lathes, planers, band saws, cut-off saws tables, work benches and sufficient incidental tools to turn out finished cabinet work.
The Henry B. Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., took three years to build and cost $3.5 million. At the time it was the second largest project costing 22.5 cents per cubic foot.
Got your own piece of school facility design history you'd like to share? Send images to Mike Kennedy at firstname.lastname@example.org, and you may see them in a future Time Machine Tuesday update.
From American School & University and School Designs
Download It Now!
Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×