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Award Programs > James D. MacConnell Award > Overview

James D. MacConnell Award Dr. MacConnell is considered The Father of educational facility planning and was instrumental in nurturing this profession from its infancy to its significant stature in education today. Dr. MacConnell is best remembered as the director of Stanford University's School Planning Laboratory, which he founded in 1951. The laboratory was the first center of applied and fundamental research on integrating school construction with child development, curriculum and instructional methods. The internationally renowned educator was the Association for Learning Environments 1979 Planner of the Year and received the Distinguished Service Award in Educational Administration from the American Association of School Administrators in 1981.

Created in 1991 to honor the late Dr. MacConnell for his significant contributions to educational facility planning and the organization, the Association considers this to be its most prestigious award.

The James D. MacConnell Award recognizes a comprehensive planning process that results in educational facilities that serve the community, enhances the educational program, and meets multiples goals. Identified as one of the industry's most prestigious awards, a "MacConnell project" exemplifies the organization's belief that great schools begin with communication and planning. School facilities recognized in this award program, might embody great architecture but their successful components and characteristics were founded in an interactive process that engaged multiple stakeholders to create an educational environment that holds purpose and distinction within a community.


The James D. MacConnell Award will be presented to the architectural firm, school district, higher education institution, consultant, and/or construction management firm whose project best meets the following criteria:

  1. A thorough, comprehensive planning process.
  2. Development of comprehensive educational specifications and/or program of requirements.
  3. A design that meets the requirements of the educational program with special emphasis on functionality of educational spaces.

Jury members will evaluate the project materials in the following areas:

  • INNOVATIVE PROCESS: The overall quality of the planning process
  • COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: The degree of community involvement in the planning process
  • INNOVATIVE PROGRAMMING: The quality of the educational specifications/program of requirements resulting from the influence of the planning process
  • INNOVATIVE PLANNING: The uniqueness of the educational facility solution
  • SUPPORT OF LEARNING: The quality of the design response in fulfilling the needs of the educational curriculum
  • BALANCE OF NEEDS: Evidence that they planning process achieved multiple goals of the district & community
  • FUNCTIONAL ADAPTABILITY: The flexibility and adaptability of the design response
  • CREATIVE SITE DEVELOPMENT: Creativity in the site development in responding to the space program and educational specifications
  • OVERALL IMPRESSION: The overall impression that the project as a whole is a product of a comprehensive planning process

The jury will review all applications that have been assessed as complete with all materials included in the submission. The jury will select no more than 5 projects as "finalists" to further review and evaluate. Once selected as a "finalist" submitting firms may be asked for additional photographs and images. Finalists will also be asked to participate in an electronic interview and to create a video presentation for the Association's use.