SHP Announced as Recipient of the 2023 James D. MacConnell Award for the design of Winton Woods City Schools

The SHP-designed campuses of the Winton Woods City School District were honored as the recipient of the 2023 James D. MacConnell Award—widely recognized as the most prestigious international award for school planning and design.

View the project’s submission video here.

The highly-respected MacConnell Award recognizes excellence in educational facility planning and design. It is bestowed upon a project that employs a detailed process to support the educational goals of the district, reflects the needs of a community, and delivers active and dynamic learning opportunities. The juried competition highlighted SHP’s focus on student voice in the design process and attention to unique pedagogical needs, while noting the resulting designs’ ability to serve as a tool for equity in student outcomes and achievement.

The win reflects a years-long collaborative process of stakeholder engagement, educational visioning and iterative planning that made it possible for SHP to deliver two beautiful, innovative campuses that uniquely meet the needs of the curriculum and community. The buildings foster a supportive community for the students and advance the district’s commitment to project-based learning (PBL), a pedagogical approach to learning that is still considered cutting-edge more than 10 years after the district introduced it.

“[We] accept this award on behalf of Alex, Lorenzo, Godfred, Alejandra, Cheyenne, Innocent and Tia and the rest of the many, many kids who helped us see what they needed their building to be. Who gave us a glimpse, thanks to their wisdom and their vision, of what learning could actually look like. Congratulations, kids, great job!” said Jeff Parker, SHP’s Director of Visioning, who accepted the award.

“Winton Woods is a testament to how transformative educational facilities can be when they prioritize and value the students they serve,” said Eric Martin, principal of Winton Woods High School. “And that’s the bottom line: our young people are worth it. The dream, the vision and the effort to deliver this unbelievable learning space gives me goosebumps, and it’s thrilling to now have all that hard work recognized within such a prestigious award program.”

Winton Woods—a culturally inclusive, open enrollment district serving approximately 4,000 students—transformed its pedagogical approach and moved to a project-based learning (PBL) curriculum in 2011. However, the 1960s-era building conditions made it challenging to implement a PBL curriculum.

Over four years, SHP engaged all voices and perspectives (more than 1,000 stakeholders over 150+ meetings) to develop the best solution for students, teachers, the district and the community: consolidating six buildings into two campuses. The North Campus (a 248,000sf building serving 1,600 students in grades 7-12) opened in March 2021; the South Campus (a 206,000sf building designed to serve up to 1,900 in grades 1-6) opened the following August.

Both campuses deliver personalized, unique learning environments to meet the district’s PBL model. Each school features 12 small learning communities (SLCs) of roughly 150 students; each SLC is comprised of dedicated spaces for traditional, collaborative, interdisciplinary, presentation and hands-on learning, all wrapped around a central collaboration zone. Instead of assigned rooms, teachers can check them out based on instructional needs. Meanwhile, an innovative distributed dining system takes advantage of the square footage typically assigned to a cafeteria to support learning more directly and easily.

Winton Woods was one of four finalists in the competition, which also included schools in Brisbane, Australia, Spokane, Washington and Washington, DC. The award was announced Sunday, Oct. 15 at the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) LearningSCAPES Conference in Chicago.