The King Open/Cambridge Street Upper School & Community Complex establishes a new standard for education design and high-performing buildings by creating a 21st-century learning lab. This new building type combines two separate schools (King Open Elementary and Cambridge Street Upper School) with a mix of diverse community programs, creating a community resource that supports student learning with a vast range of social and family support services. The result is an equitable, inclusive, and beautiful community resource.

As the school designer for the complex, Arrowstreet was responsible for the programming, planning, and design of two distinct schools for K-5 and 6-8 students with shared common spaces that include a flexible Learning Commons. This building’s design meets the client’s ambitious goals through its school planning, which supports each school’s current teaching pedagogy while allowing for future flexibility. Each grade level is organized into neighborhoods with large classrooms, shared project-based learning breakout rooms, open and flexible teaming areas, student services, and faculty workrooms, all intended to support individual learning needs.

Science and STEAM rooms located in prominent spaces highlight project work and put learning on display. The ground floor STEAM corridor faces onto the exterior Learning Courtyard to allow teamwork and project-based learning to extend beyond the classroom walls.

Designed as the first net zero emissions and first LEED v4 Platinum school in Massachusetts, the building uses 43% less energy than a typical Massachusetts school and 70% less than the average school in the United States. The building is a Learning Lab with sustainability features prominently displayed to create transparent learning opportunities. Exterior features include 3,600 façade and roof-mounted PV panels, sunshades, bioswale bridges, and a hand pump at the rain gardens. Interior features include digital dashboards in each lobby, custom educational graphics on the walls, exposed “purple pipe” water reuse system, display areas for student projects, daylight controls, and visible heating and cooling elements.

William Rawn Associates in association with Arrowstreet, worked with the City of Cambridge to leverage this entire complex into a fully utilized community resource, allowing for after-hours and weekend use of the facilities for both the surrounding neighborhood and the whole of Cambridge community. The 270,000 SF building includes an elementary school, middle school, school district administration, preschool, afterschool, public library, public pool, human services programs, an acre of open space, and parking garage.

Project Details


William Rawn Associates in association with Arrowstreet


Cambridge, MA


City of Cambridge


230,000 SF


975 Students


LEED v4 Platinum

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Arrowstreet’s knowledge and expertise in school design and operation was crucial to the project’s success as they led our teachers through planning and design. In addition to being an amazing educational facility the building was designed as a net zero facility and again Arrowstreet’s expertise in sustainable design proved invaluable in achieving a 21st century facility that matches the environmental goals of our community.”

– Jim Maloney, Chief Operating Officer, Cambridge Public Schools

Photos by Robert Benson Photography, Anthony Crisafulli Photography, Horne Visual

Architectural Plans / Process