An independent K-8 school, Sequoyah is wedged between a freeway off-ramp and a major thoroughfare. Located on the planned route of the 710 freeway extension, the buildings were, until recently, slated for demolition. The school's expansion weaves into the existing campus fabric made up of craftsman and mid-century buildings and extends it into a formerly underused area. Designed around a place-based pedagogy that allows the students' relationship to the surrounding environment to inform teaching and learning, the project doubles the school’s classroom area within a cohesive new campus of multi-functional, flexible spaces.
Working on the project was something of a history lesson, as the architects collaborated with Sequoyah's landlord, CalTrans, to piece together a comprehensive picture of its architectural roots. The property includes the work of key Southern California figures, architects Smith and Williams, and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. The new structures echo the spirit of the original architecture through scale, texture and organization, while providing a sustainable, contemporary interpretation for a new generation. Sequoyah School Expansion brings the campus's heritage into the sunlight while enabling the school to play a more permanent role in the community.
In addition to negotiating an entitlement process that straddled state and city jurisdictions, the architects collaborated with a range of client voices, including school faculty, administration, parents and students, as well as CalTrans, and the State Office of Historical Properties. The architects initially asked students for a list of their "wild dreams" of what the new campus would entail. The buildings' design was also integrated into curriculum. For example, students were introduced to the metric system and the Eames’ Powers of Ten by mapping their own 10m by10m slice of the campus for landmarks, activities, sights and sounds.
The new buildings are arranged in an L-shaped plan pressed against the freeway off-ramp to frame a generous central plaza. Covered outdoor corridors minimize the building mass, while providing sunshade and additional spaces for community interaction. Dual-story buildings accommodating classrooms and the art and science labs use an inverted truss ceiling system rising to the north to provide efficient day-lighting, and enable passive cooling and heating. Classrooms feature moveable partitions, spacious bay window lofts and exterior "study pods" in support of Sequoyah's flexible class configurations and focused student group work.
Across an intimate courtyard, a soaring one-story multi-purpose structure houses the theater and music programs, and converts into a generous all school assembly space. Expressed plywood clad roof trusses provide sound attenuation while rising to a clerestory that brings in ample daylight. An exterior wall slides open to an outdoor stage that addresses the central plaza for community-wide performances.
A system of downspouts, bridged open channels and spillways direct rain water from the standing-seam metal roofs to a rain garden of pebbles, boulders, grasses and a specimen sycamore. There, subterranean rain storage units allow water to filter and percolate at a pace where it can be absorbed by the landscape.
Narrative Sustainable Design Certificate:
Sequoyah School Expansion is, first and foremost, about the preservation and stewardship of a historic campus. Slated for demolition for a freeway extension since the early 70s, its campus of craftsman and mid-century buildings were allowed to fall into disrepair. Working with Sequoyah's landlord, CalTrans, the architects pieced together a comprehensive picture of its architectural roots. The property includes the work of key Southern California architects Smith and Williams, and landscape architect Garrett Eckbo. By educating the community about the value of this heritage, the school was able to work with CalTrans and the State Office of Historic Preservation to ensure a viable future for the campus. The expansion helps to extend the useful life of the existing buildings by integrating them into a new plan of the campus.
Sequoyah School Expansion employs an integrative approach to sustainable design, with consideration in site planning, building design, materials usage and operation.
Three new buildings are arranged in an L-shaped plan, pressed against the freeway off-ramp to deflect traffic noise, and to preserve open space and significant trees. Covered outdoor corridors minimize the building’s conditioned area, while providing additional spaces for community interaction.
The Classrooms feature large north-facing glazing which, combined with up-sloping ceilings, provides for complete day-lighting of the interior. The use of occupancy sensors and differentiated switching ensure efficiency when lighting is needed. South-facing windows have deep roof overhangs which allow penetration of winter light while excluding the summer sun. Operable windows, low on the south, high on the north, capture prevailing breezes and create convective currents to cool the spaces. Exposed concrete floors provide thermal mass to even out the daily temperatures. Individualized high efficiency HVAC units allow each space to be conditioned only as required.
The Multi-purpose Room that houses the theater and music programs converts into a generous assembly space. Expressed plywood-clad roof trusses provide sound attenuation while rising to a clerestory that brings in daylight. An exterior wall slides open to an outdoor stage that addresses the plaza for community-wide performances. This built-in spatial flexibility enables a range of activities that extend beyond the immediate school to the greater community.
The use of prefabricated truss framing at roofs and floors minimize construction waste. Acoustical ceiling panels are sourced from fast growing, self-renewing aspens. Metal 'cool' standing-seam roofing, equipped for a solar array, offers high reflectivity to minimize heat gain while enabling the clean and efficient collection of rainwater. An expressed system of downspouts, bridged channels and spillways direct water from the roofs to a rain garden of pebbles, boulders, grasses and a specimen sycamore. There, subterranean rain storage units allow water to filter and percolate at a pace where it can be absorbed by the landscape.
Sequoyah's expansion doubles the school’s classroom space within a integrative sustainable design that brings the campus's historical fabric into the sunlight and enables the school to play a permanent role in the community.