Gibbs School

Arlington, MA


linear feet of reset, repurposed stone upcycled for campus seating


square feet of outdoor classrooms and maker space


bicycle parking spaces, 20 more than for cars

Striving for academic achievement and social-emotional growth, the Gibbs School was artfully readapted to its original public-school use to address overcrowding. Dedicated to sixth-grade students transitioning into upper grades, the school’s mantra, “understanding, unified and unstoppable” served as inspiration for the thoughtful articulation and creative adaptation of the landscape design, where kids are put first.

Play time is equal to learning time. To this end, the design incorporates community and educational garden plots, improves wayfinding, increases accessibility, and creates an intriguing range of playground elements and seamless outdoor classroom features. Aimed at supporting a child’s freedom and self-confidence through simple gestures and materials, the landscape encourages diverse activities, motion, and exploration. DMLA understands that function trumps aesthetics for this age group—as this is how children evaluate their environments—the quality of the space affects the quality of the play.

I love the basketball court colors. Fun.
The Tree is our favorite meeting spot, and the best place for class.

Gibbs School Students
We are thrilled to be able to provide a school building that was carefully designed to meet the academic and social-emotional needs of the sixth graders in Arlington, while being cost-effective and efficient.

Kristin DeFrancisco, Gibbs School Principal

Underscoring sustainable design practices the team’s approach minimized impervious surfaces, increased drought tolerant plantings, and prioritized canopy cover by creating a care plan for existing trees by weaving them into the educational and play spaces on campus. Why is being immersed in play vital? Children have the opportunity to develop their imagination, creativity, and social skills—on their way to becoming unstoppable.

Me and my friends love hanging out on the steps. We meet up before school and we go back there after school to hang out.

Gibbs School Students
01 | 12

Project Team

  • Client: Town of Arlington, MA
  • Architect: Finegold Alexander Architects
  • Civil Engineer: Nitsch Engineering
  • General Contractor: Shawmut Design and Construction
  • Landscape Contractor: Xquisite Landscaping
  • Photographer: Anthony Crisafulli, Raj Das