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American Senior High School, Miami, FL

Members of MCHarry Associates team recently went back to school—as architects leading in the update of restrooms and showers for American Senior High in Miami, that is! The project was a large one, as it encompassed the complete renovation of 39 student bathrooms at the school.

The main challenge the team sought to conquer was keeping the bathrooms from being ‘status quo’ or too traditional in style.

“We wanted to create something more sophisticated and fun for high school students” stated Naomi Harrison, Senior Project Manager.

Often, school restroom and shower design veers toward safe options created using materials that will perform well in the long-term but that are not fashion-forward lest they go out of style when there’s no budget for updating. That means commodity tile in easy-to-ignore neutral tones and traditional square sizes are a commonly specified.

In contrast, MCHarry’s creative minds focused on the use of color as a way to take the American Senior High’s bathroom facilities to the next level in terms of aesthetic appeal. They turned to Crossville’s Color By Numbers tile collection for its veritable rainbow of options that would offer the visual excitement they hoped to achieve.

“We really wanted to break away from the expected and create spaces geared for students in their last years of public education who are getting ready to embark on adult life,” shared Andrea Jones, assistant project manager.

To launch the project, the team met with the school’s principal and associate principal, presuming the get-together would be a simple and brief discussion about color selections. However, the team was pleasantly surprised; the principal and associate principal had lots to say about the palettes for the bathrooms and proved to be invested in and excited about the look for their school’s facilities. This colorful collaboration set the stage for a successful—and very unique—endeavor.

Based on the outcome of the meeting, it was decided the project should incorporate multiple, engaging color schemes rather than just one combination. The team specified Crossville’s glossy, hue-saturated Color by Numbers for the walls, in sizes not typical of high school bathroom projects. The tile installations of the renovated restrooms inject eye-catching appeal into what were once humdrum spaces used by American’s 1,200-student population. In total, 26,000 square feet of wall tile was installed, as well as 6,600 square feet of floor tile.

The lovely combinations, including adventurous mixes such as turquoise, grass green, sky blue, and slate grey, are brought to life in big, bold blocks of color, often contrasted against spans of pure white. The wall designs are further elevated with the sophisticated 4”x8” size format, both for the colors and the white tile, installed vertically in the space. The glossy tile and clean lines of the design elongate the walls, creating a heightening effect and adding visual appeal. As an added design element, the MCHarry team installed electric hand dryers in recessed alcoves, accented with colorful tile frames.

“I love the sophistication the design and colors bring to the school, giving my students something different from the norm they are used to. The lustrous shine from the tile is also instrumental in enhancing the brightness from the ceiling lights making the space brighter, as the restrooms do not have natural lighting,” shares school principal Francisco Garnica.

The American Senior High School improvements, carried out over a year and a half, were funded through a Miami-Dade County Public School system $5.5 million bond allocated for the benefit of the students. Additional enhancements to American Senior High School’s campus included improvements to the air conditioning system and painting throughout the facilities.

MCHarry’s design team believed that the students would appreciate something more design-forward for the school’s restrooms—and they were right. The thoughtful details show the students that they matter and that those in positions of leadership truly care about their day-to-day experiences. Through this project, school district leadership and the American Senior High School student body alike learned important lessons: the details really do make a difference, and life is best lived in full, vibrant color!


Architect: MCHarry Associates
– Principal/director of education, Lourdes Solera, FAIA
– Project manager/lead designer, Naomi Harrison, Assoc. AIA
– Assistant project manager, Andrea Jones

Contractor: D.Stephenson Construction

Owner: Miami-Dade County Public Schools

Distributor: D&B Tile Distributors