Harrison Lyseth Elementary School

Additions and Renovations

Portland, Maine

The Harrison Lyseth Elementary School supports 500 students in grades Pre-K to 5. The building was constructed in the 1950s and had seen little change from its original state. In 2017, the City of Portland passed a $64 million referendum to renovate four of its older elementary schools. The Lyseth school was selected to be the first of these projects.

Harriman began the feasibility and planning process by facilitating a community forum to understand the ways in which the school supported its students and neighborhood and to establish design goals for the project. This process resulted in a design statement crafted by the community that reads “A nurturing community garden where everyone grows, learns and explores.” Guiding principles that followed from this included enhancing community involvement in the school and its programs, aligning the facility with today’s instructional practices, and strengthening nature-based outdoor connections.

The resulting design transforms the traditionally organized school into a 21-century learning environment. Grade level classrooms are reorganized and clustered around common displays and gathering areas. Social development spaces that include a “nest”, “cave”, and “campfire” provide a variety of informal meeting and learning opportunities. Newly created landscaped courtyards blur the lines between inside and outside and bring the natural world “into” the building forming secured outdoor classrooms and gathering areas.

The full scope of work includes additions and major renovations to create equity among the city’s seven elementary schools. Harriman’s Engineering and Architectural team completed an accelerated six-month feasibility study and design schedule in time for spring bidding and summer construction start. The project is an occupied, 30-month, phased construction.