Building in Places for Student-Centered Creativity at MLK Jr. Middle School

When it opened in 2014, Richmond’s $40 million Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School was hailed as “an architectural marvel” by the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Shockey, together with the architecture firm of BCWH, replaced the city’s aging school with a progressive and high-performance new facility that incorporated some elements of the previous building.

Along with multiple community green spaces and open-air courtyards, the school features innovative exploratory and specialty learning spaces. New program spaces, including three academic houses, dining facilities, media center, full-size gymnasium, interior courtyards, and associated administration spaces, wrap around the preserved and upgraded (reused from the existing school) auditorium space. Each academic house serves as a “school within a school” providing each grade-level with core-subject learning spaces, breakout spaces for teamwork, an information commons providing access to multimedia and web-based resources.

In 2017, the school became one of only 70 in the nation to participate in The Turnaround Arts program, which is designed to boost arts education and foster creative expression among Priority and Focus schools. As part of Turnaround Arts, schools like MLK Jr. receive an array of arts education services designed to increase their chances of success, engage their community and raise the visibility of their achievements. Key to these efforts is building arts education programming that is rigorous, effective and integrated holistically into the school, as well as strategically targeted to addressing larger school challenges.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School won a Gold Design Award from the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) and is the first LEED® Silver Certified building in the City of Richmond.