Project is the first in New England to win the Association for Learning Environments’ highest honor for excellence in educational facility design

Hartford, Conn. – February 15, 2017 – JCJ Architecture was recently recognized with the 2016 James D. MacConnell Award for its design of the Fairchild Wheeler Inter-District Magnet Campus. Presented by the Association for Learning Environments (A4LE), this prestigious award recognizes a comprehensive planning process for educational facilities that serve the needs of students, staff, and the community to facilitate student achievement. The project is the first in New England to be accorded this honor.

Rob Pillar, AIA, ALEP, A4LE's Northeast Regional Chair commented, “All of this year’s entries were exceptional, but the Fairchild Wheeler Inter-District Magnet campus stands out because of the team’s ability to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and design a school building that inspires its community to unite toward a common goal.”

Located in Bridgeport, Connecticut – one of the most urbanized and economically challenged cities in the nation – Fairchild Wheeler tasked JCJ Architecture with accommodating a high-quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) curriculum while also responding to its bold vision to reduce and prevent the racial, ethnic and economic isolation of public school students. A result of a 10-year planning process that envisioned the creation of a dynamic educational community, the school has successfully brought together Bridgeport’s urban students, many of whom come from migrant, immigrant, and minority families, with suburban students from surrounding school districts.

Fairchild Wheeler’s rigorous and interactive STEM curriculum brings together three distinct programs – Information Technology and Software Engineering, Biotechnology Research and Zoological Sciences, and Aerospace/Hydrospace Engineering and Physical Sciences. The school’s campus setting, science-focused curriculum and a goal of LEED Gold status served as inspiration for several design elements. Some of the building’s features include green roofs, photo-voltaic units and wind turbines. On the site preserved of woodlands, indigenous plants and wetlands along with walking trails provide the school’s 1,500 students – many of whom have spent their entire lives in urban settings – with hands-on indoor and outdoor learning opportunities. The firm also provided each learning community with flexible lab spaces, which also serve as a space for industry partners from the local business community to mimic real-world experiences and share expertise.

Attributed in part to JCJ’s forward-thinking design for the school, Fairchild Wheeler recently graduated 98.5 percent of seniors in its first class of students, far surpassing traditional graduation rates for urban districts in general and Bridgeport in particular.

“Every aspect of this school was designed to empower students to take responsibility for their own learning and promote interdisciplinary connections,” said Jim LaPosta, FAIA, Principal-in-Charge at JCJ Architecture. "Seeing students, teachers, administrators and industry partners utilizing the school to create life-changing experiences has been incredibly gratifying. This is why we do what we do."

The Association for Learning Environments (A4LE) is the only professional organization whose primary purpose is improving the places where children learn. With approximately 4,400 members, A4LE encompasses six geographic regions across the United States, and supports regional representation in Canada, Australasia, and the UK. A4LE embraces a collaborative network of professionals with one single goal – building healthy, safe, resilient and sustainable 21st Century learning places that inspire transformation in education, enhance student and teacher performance, and support culture and community vitality. To learn more, visit or follow on Twitter @A4LE2.