BILLERICA, MA—The new Billerica Memorial High School is now open, a sign of the town’s reaffirmed commitment to educating its students in an innovative, healthy, and flexible environment.
The project is the result of a partnership between the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the town of Billerica, design firm Perkins and Will, construction manager Shawmut Design and Construction, and project manager Leftfield.
“As a community, this is a space that we all should be proud of,” says Billerica Schools Superintendent, Timothy Piwowar. “We’ve equipped our students with a facility that will allow them to best prepare for their future, helping Billerica to become a top-tier destination for education in the Merrimack Valley.”
“The new Billerica Memorial High School will stand as an extraordinary vessel of learning for many future generations,” says Billerica Town Manager John Curran. “Anyone who walks through this building will know that the people and the educators in this town place a high value on a first-rate education for their children.”
The design of the new school supports Billerica’s diverse and forward-looking educational program through a flexible planning and design approach. Highly specialized areas—like the auditorium and STEAM spaces—are complemented by agile classrooms and informal learning areas that can be easily modified to meet different user needs.
“We wanted to equip Billerica’s students, teachers, and administrators with a space that will support evolving educational models well into the future,” says Brooke Trivas, principal at Perkins and Will. “Flexible classrooms and interdisciplinary spaces allow students to develop skills like communication and collaboration, while providing teachers and administrators the freedom to grow and expand their teaching styles.”
The high school serves more than 1,600 students in grades 8-12 and houses a 200-student Pre-K program. Academic programs offered here include nationally recognized robotics teams, an award-winning drama department, and a business and entrepreneurship club that competes internationally. The school also accommodates district administrative offices.
“As the academic sector continues to evolve and cater to the needs of today’s educators and students, it’s been an honor to lend our expertise in this space and help Billerica’s vision come to life,” says Kevin Sullivan, vice president at Shawmut.
Community Effort, Community Space
Designed to function, in part, as a community center, the new Billerica Memorial High School can accommodate town-wide events in its gymnasium, auditorium, and dining commons. Additionally, site improvements will continue through the 2019-20 school year, resulting in an athletic complex, bike and walking paths, and a quad-style civic green. When complete, the new high school and surrounding site will be a vibrant town center, offering ample spaces for the entire community to gather and connect.
The school’s new brand identity, also designed by Perkins and Will, represents the Town of Billerica’s values with the theme of “Reflection with Direction: Honoring the Past, Aiming for the Future.” During the design process, community members sorted through thousands of archival photographs—including some of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy visiting the old high school when he was a U.S. Senator—that best tell Billerica’s unique story. Designers then integrated these photos, along with color, texture, and messages like “home of the brave,” and “I am Billerica” into the building’s architecture.
“The branding implemented in the Billerica Memorial High School will become the desire and benchmark for future district high schools in the Commonwealth,” said David Saindon of project management firm Leftfield. “The community’s contributions have made this project so true to Billerica, reflective of the town’s history and values.”
Building Design and Craftsmanship
The new school building reflects Billerica’s heritage as a New England mill town while contributing a forward-thinking architecture and materiality to its surroundings. Traditional red brick is reimagined with intricate, geometric corbeling, creating a dynamic exterior façade. Inside the main atrium, a lattice of wood adds warmth to the building’s largest space and provides acoustic control, all while recalling the timber structures of many historic town buildings.
“At every scale, we used simple, honest materials—wood, brick, steel—in thoughtful, inventive compositions. In that way, we marry the architectural grammar with the community’s story,” says Patrick Cunningham, designer at Perkins and Will.
“Ultimately, this is a building that will endure—from the architecture and materiality to the future-ready educational program,” says Brooke Trivas. “We’re honored to be part of a project that will make such a lasting impact on the entire Town of Billerica.”