There’s a gate to the parking lot, and a plaque stating “In Loving Memory” by the front door. Those are the only signs that I’ve arrived at the site of an unspeakably dark American moment—the Dec. 14, 2012, murder of 20 first graders and six women who taught them. I half expect the grass not to grow.
Instead, the architect Jay Brotman parks the car and we walk toward the whimsical, undulating façade of the new Sandy Hook Elementary School, fronted with a rain garden that is flush with milkweed and marsh grasses. The timber is dotted with windows; its height rises and falls like the hills around the town, with two peaked second-story hallways poking up like little farmhouses. A low stone wall marks the base. “My goal is to lead everybody to more open and accessible schools, instead of prisonlike spaces,” the architect says. “You’re not going to raise a good person in a prison.”