HKS began as an architectural and interior design firm but has now expanded to include researchers, urban designers, nurses, anthropologists, and graphic designers, among others. 

HKS views design as an exploratory enterprise. Design research enables them to experiment, enhance, and develop more intelligent solutions, which is crucial if they wish to construct a more resilient future.

Generalized design ethos (Overall design philosophy)

HKS designs innovations in, with, and beyond the built environment for the future.inhabitantinhabitants, and that designs can improve people’s lives, regardless of whether they are creating unique experiences for sports fans, delivering a world away to resort guests, or enabling children with cancer to support one another.

Their designs are innovative, engaging, and functional.

They construct areas that maintain and revitalize the natural ecology of the world because they respect and value its resources.

Further, they have embraced an environmental, social, and governance (ESG) structure to benefit, strengthen, and support both people and the globe. ESG is the foundation of their business, organization, and all partnerships. They integrate ESG considerations into all of their operations and propose design solutions that support their objective of creating more resilient and equitable communities

“Design is a way of thinking.” It can uncover hidden opportunities and create meaningful change. “Design done right delivers the extraordinary.” ~Dan Noble President and CEO at HKS

Based on these design philosophies, HKS designed an elementary school campus that invites the community to engage with the site and break down the physical and historical gates that separate the school from pedestrians.

C. B. Berry Elementary School by HKS - Sheet1
C. B. Berry Elementary School_©


The new C. B. Berry Elementary School would combine two existing schools to create a cutting-edge structure that would inspire children to envision a limitless future for themselves.

The new school aimed to create a pedestrian-friendly environment by reserving the northeast corner for a park where parents and children could form meaningful relationships through the shared experience of arriving and departing from school. The relationship between growth and environment is mirrored across the learning pathways, giving rise to the term “learning journey.”

The school is divided into two zones: a semi-public central zone centered on the arrival court by the library volume and shared programs centered on an outdoor learning courtyard flanked by academic wings. The strategic placement of formal and informal indoor and outdoor spaces across campus provides students with adaptive learning environments. Pavings, water play, and gardens promote a sense of harmony and rhythm with nature and allow children to learn about microclimate and ecology while giving back to the school’s vegetation.

C. B. Berry Elementary School by HKS - Sheet2
Outdoor central zone _©


The HKS design team developed a concept based on four guiding principles: community, resilience, wellness, and student futures, all of which are linked to district goals and result in measurable success outcomes.

The HKS design team understood the significance of analyzing spatial and programmatic adjacencies in order to maximize natural light into student spaces while minimizing heat gain in areas that did not require windows and could be used as buffers for high-occupancy spaces. Light studies were carried out while analyzing the layout of shared collaboration spaces at each grade POD to determine the best location for a visual connection to the exterior, providing natural light to create a fluid connection between the space and the exterior. Using a similar analysis, the design team strategically placed the kitchen space on the southernmost side of the building, minimizing southern solar heat gain. The kitchen served as a buffer zone for the cafeteria, with views and daylight strategically oriented towards the north.

The design team collaborated with the school to create a series of collaboration spaces that served as the central node around which five classrooms for each grade were organized. These common areas would be visible and accessible from each classroom. Students would benefit from the collaboration spaces because they would have a visual connection to nature, which would improve their mental engagement and attentiveness and reduce stress. Using both fixed and mobile furniture, spaces could be configured to accommodate a variety of functions throughout the day.

C. B. Berry Elementary School by HKS - Sheet3
Collaboration space_©


Conceptually, the school symbolized a learning journey, linking pupils to the idea that everyone begins at the same spot and undertakes comparable adventures. The ultimate objective of the initiative was to develop a sense of community at all scales and enable students to select their ideal route. To encourage student-centered learning, the design plan intended to establish both formal and informal areas for students and teachers.

In addition, as collaboration spaces grew, the concept of a symbolic SEED would offer students an area for relaxation, small-group conversation, study, and discovery. These SEEDs would serve as a catalyst for wider group participation and encourage the independence of each learner.


A significant dynamic was to be created by bringing together the student bodies and cultures of Berry Elementary School and Roark Elementary School. The goal for HKS was to create a campus that encouraged community involvement while also removing structural and cultural barriers that separated the school from pedestrians.

Through discussions with user groups, the design team recognized the importance of taking a step back, looking at all school users, and determining how the new facility would improve everyone’s daily health.

One of the demands was to create a space where students could improve their social and personal skills, which would influence their current and future involvement in education and the community.

It was also important to adopt a design strategy that works with the site, solar orientation, and an awareness of how areas are used throughout the day for educational buildings that went beyond the requirements of building codes for energy savings. This was due to the fact that not every interior space was used on a daily basis.

interior space_©

The Design Impact

The goals and their connections to the framework served as a living document that responded to current and future discussions in order to properly define and communicate the project’s goals within the community.

New interior and outdoor spaces provided students with educational opportunities that meet “today’s” demands while avoiding impediments to future technological and spatial improvements that aided in the transition from teacher-centered to learner-centered learning. The collaboration area’s visual connection to nature encouraged students’ cognitive engagement, attentiveness, and stress reduction.

Project Features

  • Community park
  • Gardens
  • Collaboration spaces
  • Outdoor learning environments
  • Replacement elementary school for 950 kids


  • C. B. Berry Elementary School. (2022, October 26). HKS Architects.

Vedika is an architect who wants to push the boundaries of architecture beyond the realms of Earth in order to discover how outer space designs can help humanity and designs on Earth. She aspires to make her designs powerful enough to convince everyone that space matters. She believes natural materials, detailing, and faultless execution can give structures their own voice. Every day, her passion for design, writing, and knowledge moves her closer to her goal.