The Project That Keeps On Giving

Swampscott High School is a project that stands out in SMMA’s portfolio of successful K-12 designs—it incorporates numerous elements of sustainable thinking, takes advantage of existing natural site features, and blends contextually into the cultural fabric of the Town. It was also completed nearly a decade ago. So, this week, when media outlets began contacting principal-in-charge Philip Poinelli regarding the project’s success, it was a welcome surprise.

What makes Swampscott High unique is its innovative integration of a community senior center, making the school a place of inter-generational activity and learning. In this way, the facility benefits the entire community, making it a resource for a significantly larger swath of end-users than a typical high school.

Speaking to, a website from The Atlantic that aims to “inform and inspire the people who are creating the cities of the future,” Phil explained SMMA’s design thinking thusly: “We said, ‘Well, we have a dance room in the high school.’ In the winter, they took seniors in a bus to a local shopping center to walk. I said, ‘We have this huge fieldhouse, you could use that.’ There was so much overlap, it just seemed to make sense.”

And it’s not just the seniors who have benefited. In an interview with The Huffington Post, as part of their “What’s Working” initiative, Phil talked about the ways in which young and old have been able to learn from each other. “[The seniors] are teaching cooking and knitting, and senior veterans are mentoring sports teams on citizenship. The students are teaching computer classes and how to program a cell phone and use other technology. So, there’s really a terrific relationship that’s developed and that continues to grow.”

That the project is being celebrated now is a testament to the careful planning and progressive design thought that led to its construction. And it’s something that Phil hopes to see more of in the future. Speaking to The Huffington Post, he said, “I think it’s a wonderful opportunity, and I really do hope that other communities look to this as a model, because it can be replicated in many, many communities around the country."