Designed on an extremely limited budget and aggressive schedule, simple cost-effective gestures were deployed in the use of cladding, fenestration, colour and transparency to create a memorable sense of richness, providing a bright moment in an extremely tough inner-city community.
Unlike most school that are enclosed by a property line security fence, the South Los Angeles High School building is surrounded by a 6 meters high perforated bullet resistant metal walls that are integrated into the building design. This creates light filled courtyards for outside activity that is connected directly to classroom activities. This arrangement of courtyard design allows the building to breathe fresh air and daylight while providing a safe and secure environment for leaning and social engagement. Open-air light-filled halls and classrooms, as well as the building transparency, express the school’s values and provide a healthy, sustainable learning environment. The building form and primary courtyard are formed by a series of required clearances around an oil well abandoned in the late 1970’s, a series of power line and utility easements, height restrictions and zone changes running through the site that constrain the form and size to its maximum possible building area envelope.
The perforated anodized aluminium façade panels of the building create an ever- changing screen that sparkles in the sun and glows at night, while simultaneously providing shade to cool the building, reducing noise, enhancing privacy, and still allowing for views, great natural light and ventilation which pass through its millions of perforations. The material reappears as a strategic arrangement of screens around the building, lending a subtle rhythm to the exterior circulation. The walls filter direct sunlight that lends unexpected visual depth while creating a sense of security for the occupants.
Enhancing the structure’s geometric texture, the irregular array of openings variably extrudes from the building’s surface. Its unique architectural form and integrated function creates a high-performing building that is an expression of the people who live there and the environmental and cultural context in which it is built.
Photo credits: Brooks + Scarpa, Tara Wujcik