Building on a Legacy

Dorothy Hamm Middle School

Dorothy Hamm Middle School

Arlington, Virginia

Our expansion of this historic school building celebrates its importance in the history of the African American civil rights movement. As the first public school in Virginia to desegregate after the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, the school is a testament to equity and innovation in education. Our design honors this legacy with interpretive elements and furthers it by supporting new ways of teaching and learning.

We carefully sited the addition at one end of the building to preserve the historic façade and the entrance students used in the desegregation era. The addition introduces new areas that promote interdisciplinary learning, including a maker space, decision theater-style labs, and a student commons with an integrated media wall.

Building on a Legacy
We wanted to move away from the traditional classroom. The teacher is not the sage on the stage anymore; the teacher is the coach. They’re facilitating the building of skills through rich content and enriching learning experiences.
A historic photo of Stratford Junior High School.

A Civil Rights Landmark

On Feb. 2, 1959, Stratford Junior High School admitted four African American students, becoming the first Virginia public school to desegregate. The school was renamed after longtime activist Dorothy Hamm, one of the plaintiffs in the civil suit that forced state-wide school desegregation.

A photo of the displays outside the building honoring the first African American students who attended the historic school.

Honoring Trailblazers

Interpretive graphics throughout the school and site honor Ronald Deskins, Michael Jones, Lance  Newman, and Gloria Thompson – the 12-year-old students who integrated the school – and other figures in the civil rights movement.

A photo of a wall mockup inside the school. There is a graphic decoding the various layers of building materials used.
A photo of a student reading at a library.

Sustainable Design on Display

Displays throughout the building teach students about its sustainable features, such as the upgraded building envelope and systems that reduce energy use and the green roof and bioretention areas that manage storm water runoff.

A photo of a family looking at building plans at a community engagement meeting.

It Takes a Village

The design was informed by input gathered at more than 50 community engagement meetings. Stakeholder groups included students, parents, faculty, the School Board, a Superintendent’s Special Committee on Historic Interpretation, and the county Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board.

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