The design concepts presented here were developed in response to a program provided by the client, a public school district in Bethlehem Pennsylvania, for a new 900-student science and technology-themed “magnet” middle school encompassing 107,360 SF of scheduled space. The site for the new school was dictated by an existing neighborhood school, which the new building would replace. This original Broughal school, a treasured part of the community, was built during the heyday of Bethlehem Steel, a giant in America’s industrial history. The school’s site stands in the long shadow of the industrial “ruins” that dominate South Bethlehem. The architectural team’s challenge was to accommodate this innovative academic program on the tight site in a densely populated urban neighborhood. Their goal was to respect the building’s neighborhood and its rich historical context, but think outside the box and beyond the apparent limits of the site to provide a building that respects the site and city’s history. The team decided that while reverential, the design must make bold moves that are appropriate to the history of the site and the importance of the educational initiatives that would take shape within its walls. For its inspiration, the lead architect looked to two iconic images of South Bethlehem: the vernacular architecture of the neighborhood and a dominant artifact of the city’s industrial history. The architecture of South Bethlehem is dominated by red brick row houses. Indeed, the students of the original Broughal school were the children, and then the grandchildren and great grandchildren, of the thousands of immigrant steelworkers who called these modest structures home. Towering above these homes is the Ore Bridge,a structure that is at once imposing in its scale and refreshingly light and airy in its composition. The building takes its cues from this larger context, with authentic materials that speak to the school’s history of place. The red brick of the row homes inspired the red “clinker” brick that literally grounds the lower levels of the school. The Ore Bridge is evoked on the upper level, where steel and glass reference the Bridge’s materiality, the linearity, and the juxtaposition of solidity and ethereality. Functionally, the school is envisioned as a “U” shape, with the bottom of the “U” extending along the most heavily traveled corridor. It is placed on the lowest elevation of the site and embedded into the landscape, which softens its edges and helps the structure to be a graceful neighbor to the residential district which it borders. The building’s wings wrap around the playing fields, creating an expansive greenspace that evokes a collegiate lawn but offers a middle-school twist. Here, the ideals of intellectual and physical education are set against one another with a sense of order and balance. Parking is tucked underneath the fi elds to ensure that the site emphasizes the educational experience, not the necessities of parking. By elevating the classrooms (a moved inspired by the Ore Bridge), the building’s structure is pushed back and lifted up, softening the transition between Broughal and its urban neighborhood. The result is a space the design team has called The Plaza, a place for students and the community to gather and an exciting and vibrant campus edge for the new school. The transition from neighborhood to school is celebrated with a place of opportunity and energy for both the community and the students. Here, everything from school functions to community events (art exhibits, farmers’ markets, science competitions, plays, and even graduation ceremonies) can be staged in this signature design feature. A Grand Stair leads from the Plaza up to the playing fi elds, its wide and deep steps encouraging students to mix and mingle before and after school. Here, quotations from Albert Einstein are acid-etched into the poured concrete to inspire students as they cross the threshold into the educational environment. The Grand Stair is balanced by another stadium-style staircase at the far end of the fi elds. The Cafeteria, located on the ground fl oor off the Plaza, is envisioned as a space that reveals the technology of architecture and construction within the technology-themed school. In this space, the building shows particular evidence of how it is made and structural elements and ductwork are exposed. Glass walls welcome natural daylight into the spaces and create views into the Plaza. Strategically located doors can provide access between the Cafeteria and the Plaza for school and community events. The auditorium, music rooms, gymnasium, and auxiliary gymnasium are oriented on this level as well, to allow access for public events offered by the school.