Phil Poinelli Delivers Keynote Address at GrandSchools Seminar in Australia

GrandSchools Seminar series at the School of Architecture and Built Environment at Queensland University of Technology

SMMA’s Philip Poinelli, FAIA, LE Fellow, delivered a keynote address at the GrandSchools Seminar in Brisbane, Australia on 25 November.

Hosted by the GrandSchools Project and Fulton Trotter Architects, the seminar was part of a wider series focused on Intergenerational Living and Learning Models set up as part of Australia’s national health research grant (NHMRC). The event took place at the School of Architecture and Built Environment at Queensland University of Technology. 

Speaking remotely, Poinelli gave attendees a virtual tour of the renowned Swampscott High School and Senior Center—designed and master-planned by SMMA—and fielded questions from Australia-based A/E/C professionals on various aspects of the project’s enduring legacy

Poinelli used his keynote address to discuss the challenges of designing for intergenerational campuses such as Swampscott, including advice on winning over local stakeholders, fostering synergy between senior citizens and highschoolers, and providing a safe and comfortable environment for the building’s users. 

“Collaboration with the school department and the high school Principal really sealed the deal,” said Poinelli. “The access to literally tens of thousands of program square feet in the high school building is something they [the Senior Center] would otherwise never have been able to build.” 

As Project Director and Learning Environment Planner at SMMA, Poinelli led the initial district Master Plan for Swampscott School District in Massachusetts. He also directed the design for the town’s new integrated High School and Senior Center, which opened in 2005. The project has since been the subject of glowing profiles in national media and ongoing interest from K-12 and senior living design researchers and practitioners in several countries. 

“I've toured researchers from Japan, Norway, and others from around the U.S.” said Poinelli. "It's the intergenerational component that makes that project so successful.” 

Among the many issues addressed in the presentation were the initial concerns for seniors’ safety—during the design phase, Swampscott seniors expressed concerns that the large and fast-moving high school students might be in conflict. “To everyone's delight, the populations have gotten along well,” said Poinelli. “Swampscott recently reported that there is significant collaboration going on now between the High School and Senior Center.” 

Poinelli also addressed the issue of funding for capital projects that might otherwise be considered stand-alone ventures. He explained how capital projects are often individually funded and well-guarded by the project sponsors, and that tying projects together can be perceived as threatening for the voter approval process. Instead, Poinelli suggested that “community-wide capital master planning” may be the best solution. 

Poinelli, who serves as a Principal at SMMA, was recently made an LE Fellow—the highest accolade awarded to a member of the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE). He is an architect, educational planner, and writer and speaker on K-12 school planning and design.