Sustainability mixed with inspiration in equal measure for a new kind of elementary school
When a private foundation stepped forward to provide the funding for this northern California public school campus, their intention was to create a model for future schools that was both environmentally friendly and an inspiring learning environment for students. They were looking to break away from traditional design patterns so prevalent in the United States, patterns which too often revolved around isolated monochromatic interior rooms with little connection to their outdoor environment. The result is a 77,000-sq-ft building where half the learning spaces are outdoors, despite being located within a region with hot, dry summers and cold rainy winters.
With an emphasis on performing arts, the indoor portion of the school is centered on an outdoor theater with indoor music classrooms that convert to outdoor stages with large bi–fold doors as weather permits. Small-scale outdoor cafes take the place of a cafeteria, with several classroom courtyards and galleries all open to the weather, providing students with an understanding of how critical weather is to their everyday lives. An innovative evaporative fan cooling and radiant heating system provide economical climate control for a smoother transition between the indoor and outdoor environment.
Early results point to a school that will be among the most energy efficient in the U.S., with an added benefit of less student sickness. The children who come here will live a large part of their early lives inside its walls, and as such those walls have been made as transparent as possible, with a connection between inside and outside that has been so blurred those walls often disappear completely. Within and without, all spaces are learning places, designed to be as playful as the children who will inhabit them.