James Lawson High School

Hastings Architecture designed the James Lawson High School with updated facilities for learning and recreation in Nashville, Tennessee.

The new James Lawson High School in Nashville sets a precedent for design and sustainability in secondary education across Tennessee. Spanning 310,000 square feet over 3-stories, the school blends into the landscape, transforming site challenges into solutions that enhance learning and athletic environments while catering to the needs of the school curriculum.

The design process for James Lawson High School involved close collaboration with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to create a place that fosters critical thinking, inquiry, problem-solving, and creativity among the 1,600 students it serves. Multiple meetings with faculty, students, and community members ensured that the design of the school would become a hub for collaboration and community engagement.

The school design embraces sustainability as a design driver and is projected to achieve a LEED Gold certification through various initiatives. These include roof-mounted photovoltaic arrays, a high-efficiency geothermal mechanical system, natural daylighting, rainwater harvesting, green roofs, and outdoor classrooms that connect with nature.

Inspired by the area’s historical significance, the school’s design intertwines with the surrounding topography, utilizing concrete, terrazzo, brick, and wood to create patterns mirroring the nearby limestone bluffs. Leveraging the site’s slope, the school incorporates grade-level entries at various points, reducing accessibility challenges and facilitating smoother traffic flow.

At the heart of the school is the student Commons, which acts as the main gateway to welcome students into the building. The double-height space is conceived to be a hive of activity, and a place for students and teachers to interact and socialize. The Commons fronts the two-story Library and is flanked by two grand staircases on either side that lead to educational wings and up to the third-floor cafeteria.

The design and construction of James Lawson High School marks a pivotal milestone for the public school district and the students that will flow through its halls. Designed to be contextually honest and respectful of its place, the school moves beyond mere functionality with a building that blends with its surroundings elevates sustainability strategies, and establishes a new community asset for Nashville.

Design: Hastings Architecture
Contractor: Messer Construction Co.
Photography: Garrett Rowland