Former California Office Building Becomes Home to Three Unique High Schools

With public school construction, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) had to approve the design, and Gensler faced additional challenges in meeting DSA’s required criteria in an outside-the-box renovation.

With public school construction, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) had to approve the design, and Gensler faced additional challenges in meeting DSA’s required criteria in an outside-the-box renovation.

Responsible Compliance

With public school construction, the Division of the State Architect (DSA) had to approve the design, and Gensler faced additional challenges in meeting DSA’s required criteria in an outside-the-box renovation. Any building not originally designed under DSA’s oversight is classified as a structure that needs to be “rehabilitated.” The unusual open plan didn’t quite conform to usual school standards either. “There isn’t a great deal of interpretation flexibility with the DSA, and it really placed the burden on us to prove strict conformance, from fire safety and emergency egress to structural integrity,” Herjeczki notes.

Schools with a high occupancy are required to be designed to a seismic importance factor of 1.25, whereas an office building is built to a factor of 1. The team had to test and augment the building’s seismic strength by 25 percent to comply. “Where we added seismic braces, we had to dig out the caisson foundations of the building two at a time, excavating 20-feet below grade to enlarge them,” Herjeczki recalls.

Another complication was the fact that commercial buildings from the 1980s don’t have the detailed documentation DSA would require, so there was inadequate information about how the building was put together. “Our original intent was to reuse more of the existing systems and building enclosures, but we couldn’t satisfy the DSA’s expectations. In some areas like the west façade that we thought we could keep, it was simpler to tear down and build new,” Herjeczki says.

Although the roof was newer, the team also had to tear the roof membrane off to reinforce the deck as part of the seismic upgrade.

The team incorporates colors and materials associated with each Da Vinci schools’ brand to make each floor unique.

The team incorporates colors and materials associated with each Da Vinci schools’ brand to make each floor unique.

Symbols of School Spirit

The significant structural retrofits dipped into the project’s fixed budget, but designers found multiple ways to support Da Vinci’s educational programs and still give the three schools their own identities.

On each of the upper floors, a room projects into the atrium which provides visual cues to identify the three distinct schools in the single building. “We playfully stacked different types of collaboration spaces in the atrium to architecturally emphasize an internal address to each school,” Herjeczki explains. “We also incorporated the colors and materials associated with each Da Vinci schools’ brand, so each floor is unique.”

For example, the material associated with Da Vinci Design is wood, and the collaboration space on the top floor of the atrium is an angular space made of plywood. In another collaboration space, a hanging wooden ceiling softens the room but exposes the building’s raw materials to inspire design students. Gensler added light blue and yellow accents throughout the top floor using paint and furniture to reflect the school’s brand colors.

Da Vinci Communication’s atrium presence is defined by a curvilinear collaboration space, and the school’s blue and purple colors are found in the furniture and wall coverings on the third floor. Da Vinci Science’s brand emphasizes grids, and the designers played with grids throughout the second floor in treatments like gridded shelving and a ceiling made of metal tiles at different depths. The school’s colors of green and silver are evident in its atrium-facing collaboration space.

“Because we couldn’t afford to use exotic materials, the spaces have an air of being something hackable and adaptable,” Herjeczki remarks. “It long-term futureproofs the project. Twenty years from now as pedagogy continues to evolve, Da Vinci can transform the spaces into whatever it needs them to be.”

Retrofit Team

Architect: Gensler, Los Angeles
Contractor: Balfour Beatty Construction, Los Angeles
Landscape Design: Pamela Burton & Co., Santa Monica, Calif.
Civil Engineers: KPFF Consulting Engineers, Los Angeles
Structural Engineers: Saiful Bouquet, Pasadena, Calif.
M/E/P: tk1sc, Los Angeles
AV/Acoustics: Newson Brown, Santa Monica
Fire, Life Safety: Jensen Hughes, Baltimore
Cost Estimating: Cumming, Los Angeles
Education Planner: New Vista Design, Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Materials

Glazing: Vitro Architectural Glass
Curtainwall, Windows and Doors: Arcadia Inc.
Masonry: Angelus Block Co. Inc.
Metal Siding: ATAS International Inc.
Acoustical: International Cellulose Corp.
Lighting: A-Light; Delray Lighting Inc.; and Prudential Ltg.
Acoustical Ceilings: Hunter Douglas Architectural and USG
Carpet: Tandus Centiva
Resilient Flooring: Johnsonite
Fire Glazing: SaftiFirst
Accordion Fire Doors: Won-Door Corp.
Writable Paint: Idea Paint
Paint: Dunn Edwards
Wall and Floor Tile: Daltile
Tackable Wall Panels: Koroseal
Cabinetwork and Custom Millwork: Stolo Cabinets
Furniture: Teknion
Roofing: Sika Sarnafil

Photos: Gensler

About the Author

KJ Fields
KJ Fields writes about design, sustainability and health from Portland, Ore.

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