One of the most tragic events a community can face is a school shooting since most people consider a school to be a safe haven for innocent children. The 1999 massacre at Columbine High School and the 2012 murders at Sandy Hook Elementary are not only among the most infamous acts of violence in an educational setting, but they also illustrate the different approaches to healing after tragedy. While the authorities at Columbine decided to refurbish and renovate the school, the parents and school offices in Newtown decided to tear down the building where 20 children between six and seven years of age and their teachers lost their lives. The architects charged with designing the renovations at Columbine and the new Sandy Hook school faced a number of unique challenges.
The Design of Recovery
Architects designing educational spaces after a school shooting need to balance the community’s need to honor the fallen in an environment that facilitates learning while providing a sense of security. At Columbine, the decision was made to refurbish the halls and cafeteria to maintain functional space, while transforming the library where most of the violence took place into a serene two-story atrium. The architect who designed the new Sandy Hook Elementary school integrated security systems innocuously into the grounds and building to provide a sense of safety without the school giving the impression of a fortress.
To learn more about the innovative ways architects designed healing spaces in school settings, read “The Architecture of Loss: How to Redesign After a School Shooting” in The Atlantic.