Houston ISD—High School for Law & Justice
Architect: Page & DLR Group
Replacement of a specialized high school for careers in law and criminal justice, transforming a derelict urban area. The new school includes classrooms, labs, fine arts, gym, dining/performance commons, black box theater/classroom, administration, library, courtroom, 9-1-1 call center, forensic lab, and JROTC classroom. Site amenities include track, soccer field, outdoor dining, JROTC training, parking, drop-off. School spirit is fostered through collaboration areas and a central commons.
The community is welcomed with a prominent architectural entrance element containing the courtroom and law library. The high school is organized internally around a multi-use gathering/dining/performance space, flanked by two wings for law and justice. The central commons features views to specialized career programs such as a 9-1-1 call center and forensic lab. Programs are designated by interior finish colors and supergraphics. Flexible collaborative spaces are provided in each program zone.
The exterior envelope consists of an economical, schedule-reducing tilt-wall concrete construction system, enhanced with form patterns and metal panels. The educational spaces and furniture are flexible for multiple educational purposes. The commons serves dining, assembly, performance, circulation, and collaboration at multiple scales. The building is simple, compact, and efficient. Instruction wings for Law and Justice flank the commons; façade articulation makes it welcoming and interesting.
Classrooms have views to the surrounding urban environment and commons; daylighting enhances learning . The school maximizes resources via the adjacent light rail stop, with commuting and field trip options for students and staff. The school achieved LEED certification. The school supports health and wellness with a weight room, welcoming stairways, a running track, and soccer field. Students have dining choices, both in food and environment.
The high school was designed to transform an abandoned, overlooked site in the shadow of downtown into a community asset. Construction of the school resulted in investment in the surrounding blocks, including new adjacent developments . The school acts as a hub for Transit-Oriented Development, using the adjacent rail stop for student/staff commuting, as well as field trips by rail to two nearby universities for joint programs in legal studies, law enforcement, and forensic medicine.
The process began with a three-day master planning charrette. The design team met with a parent/teacher/student group monthly to gain feedback on the evolving design. The design team met twice with the full Parent Teacher Organization to make sure the design supports students toward careers in law and law enforcement. The school was planned to provide differentiated, but highly flexible spaces that can be adjusted daily, weekly, or annually, as educational needs and programs evolve.
The high school provides a career- and college-ready environment through professional, collaborative workplaces for law and enforcement. Authentic workspaces include a courtroom, a 9-1-1 call center, a law library, and a crime scene lab. Career-focused curriculum is supported by architecture: a rooftop fine arts classroom for sketching suspects; a commons supporting speech performances during lunch; an outdoor forensic analysis area; a secure parking lot to practice drunk driving enforcement.
Star of Distinction Category Winner