Best Pre-K–12 School Design Architecture: HMC’s 2018-2019 Ultimate Guide

At HMC Architects, we take pride in our Pre-K–12 projects because we know the difference great architectural design can make in the lives of students. But nothing satisfies us more than when we see a school district’s aspirational vision succeed with our help.

In 2014, we renovated the El Sol Science and Arts Academy, a charter school now serving 750 low-income students in Santa Ana, California.

El Sol Science and Arts Academy

We designed this school to optimize the best new teaching strategies, focusing on technology and implementing features that allow for more classroom collaboration. We also added 12 new classrooms, a wellness center for the children and their families, and we made sure to design the school for the future, ensuring that it could grow with the district’s needs to accommodate up to 900 students.

This fall, we are proud to share the news that El Sol has been named one of America’s Best Urban Schools (ABUS). Awarded a Gold standing by the National Center for Urban School Transformation (NCUST) for increasing test scores to some of the highest in the state, El Sol is the first and only dual immersion school to earn the ABUS prize.   

While our role in helping to drive this achievement was small in comparison to the work of El Sol’s student body and faculty, our joy is big. It’s rewarding to be on the periphery of such a marvelous success story.

Our Best Design Architecture Posts of 2018

This year, we published a number of articles in our Thought Leadership blog on the best design architecture for the Pre-K–12 education sector. From school safety to the modern classroom design trends that matter most, these posts contain vital information for administrators on designing and creating a modern, sophisticated school that provides the best possible learning environment for Pre-K–12 students. Review them below to find inspiration for your next design or redesign project.


Photo by Dave Fennema

Photo by David Wakely

1. Designing Safe Schools: Considerations for Secure High School Campuses

School safety has been at the forefront of Pre-K–12 administrators’ minds in 2018. According to the non-profit organization Everytown for Gun Safety, at least 75 incidents of gunfire on school campuses around the country were reported from January through October of this year, prompting administrators to look for solutions to this serious problem. As ways to increase security and keep intruders and weapons off campus are discussed in school districts across the United States, administrators are learning that a combination of best design and architecture can play a large role in keeping students and staff safe.

In our post titled “Designing Safe Schools: Considerations for Secure High School Campuses,” we introduce ways that building design can foster safety and quick responses to emergency situations. The article details the importance of design strategies such as creating highly visible community spaces, fewer points of entry, better surveillance, safe zones in classrooms, and more effective wayfinding. Helping students feel cared for and valued will continue to be a priority in the new year.


2. How Modern School Design Can Reduce Bullying

Educators place an emphasis on fostering a more caring, supportive environment for Pre-K–12 students. In “How Modern School Design Can Reduce Bullying,” we discuss the impact architecture can have on student safety and recommend the best design strategies and elements to help reduce bullying in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

For example, creating clear lines of sight allow teachers to keep a closer watch on students. We also detail window placement and lighting tactics, as well as the importance of creating spaces that support positive social interactions for all students, including those who are introverted and extroverted. Designing or reconfiguring parking and drop-off areas for improved safety, which we did at Lexington Elementary School in Los Gatos, California, can help create a more secure main entrance.

We believe that bullying doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of campus life and that thoughtful building design can be an important strategy to support educators working to make all students feel safe.


Photo by Dave Fennema

Photo by David Wakely

3. Designing the 21st Century Classroom: 6 Top Considerations

In 2018, we saw a number of exciting design trends take hold in Pre-K–12 classrooms around the country. In our blog post titled “Designing the 21st Century Classroom: 6 Top Considerations,” we detail the importance of designing in ways that reflect current movements and aims in education, and we offer examples. Implementing design features that foster collaboration and critical thinking, for example, are vital to helping both students and teachers succeed. As you read the article, you’ll learn more about these design trends:

  • Collaborative spaces
  • Flexible furnishings
  • Natural lighting
  • Bright colors
  • Technology integration
  • Hands-on learning environments

When you implement these best design architecture trends into your school, you can create a modern classroom that encourages collaboration and inspires success.  


4. Identifying Effective Design Trends for School Multipurpose Halls

One of the best design architecture trends of 2018 is the school multipurpose hall. Rather than creating individual classrooms that support only one teaching or learning method (such as a lecture room or an art studio), Pre-K–12 educators are working with architects to instead design multipurpose halls—larger, aesthetically pleasing, more flexible collaboration spaces that can be converted to fit various teacher and student needs.

In “Identifying Effective Design Trends for School Multipurpose Halls,” we explain why to consider a multipurpose hall and the empowering features that foster more active, engaged students. We also offer ways to create these spaces with individual school programs in mind.


Photo by Dave Fennema

Photo by Lawrence Anderson

5. Incorporating Innovative Classroom Furniture Into Modern School Design

Teachers know that every student learns differently. So, school educators, facilities staff, and other stakeholders must work with experienced architects to design a school that supports many different learning styles. To that end, one of the best and most simple design architecture solutions is flexible furniture. When students feel empowered to move furniture around to suit their needs, they feel that the space is truly their own.

In “Incorporating Innovative Classroom Furniture Into Modern School Design,” we take an in-depth look at the Pre-K–12 furniture options that support student equality, collaboration, and, of course, flexibility. From mobile pegboards and reading nooks to wheeled chairs and outdoor workstations, innovative furnishings help to create customizable spaces that offer students the best possible environment for learning and support achievement.


Partner with Us on Your Next School Design Project

In 2019, expect to find even more detailed, insightful articles on our blog that discuss the best design architecture for Pre-K–12 schools. HMC Architects is committed to helping administrators and educators understand complex architectural concepts and incorporate those concepts into school building designs. Contact HMC Architects today to learn more about the best design architecture for your Pre-K–12 school. If you have specific questions, email James Krueger, AIA, Design Principal, directly.