WESTGROUP DESIGNS, INC.
Associate Architect or Firm:
Owner / Developer:
SANTA ANA UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Completion Date: 8/1/2022
Square Footage: 25000
Building Use: PreK-6 School
DESIGNING FOR CHANGE
Focusing on its goal of creating an inclusive 21st Century neighborhood school with an innovative “DREAMS” curriculum (Design, Research, Engineering, Arts, Math, and Science), the Santa Ana Unified School District set out to acquire a vacant lot on which to build a new facility to support the significant growth they had projected. Their search was burdened by the rising costs and availability of land. Finding a rare opportunity, the District acquired a site within the Irvine Business Complex, on which sat a vacant, 2-story, 17,635 square foot office building. The team understood that the building and site presented numerous challenges as a school conversion.
What we saw beyond these challenges was the potential of restoration and renewal; hope in the eyes of the District stakeholders that this undertaking could realize a one-of-a-kind facility which embodies the focus of the DREAMS curriculum concept as its own story. The new school, INDA Academy, would illustrate the successful result of an adaptive reuse strategy, fueled by program inspiration.
The deteriorating building did not meet current seismic codes, concealing a bevy of outdated systems; it was not sprinklered, did not have an elevator, and was enclosed by poor-performing vision and spandrel glass, with crumbling seals. Surrounding the failing structure was a property encumbered by a required access easement for the neighboring property, and a site with every inch of open space devoted to surface parking.
We were compelled to deliver a unique environment that would facilitate progressive, hands-on learning for 225 students a year, from Pre-K to 6th grade, in 9 classrooms, plus flexible space, and to understand how our solution would impact the community, leveraging the gifts of the local climate to support indoor/outdoor educational opportunities.
We arrived at the solution to retain and strengthen the existing structure, replacing the existing window wall system with wood shear walls and low-e, insulated, operable windows with a lightweight metal skin.
This cost-effective combination allowed for the reuse of existing foundations while creating a new envelope, exceeding Title-24 performance requirements by 30%.
Enclosing an underutilized outdoor corner to maximize interior space provided for a double-height multipurpose space featuring stepped-stadium seating to support a variety of group instruction, assembly activities and promote social interaction. A glazed retractable wall connects this double-height space with the multipurpose ground floor room, for both group and project-based learning. Flexible, activity-based spaces continue through to the 2nd floor, overlooking the lobby.
Focusing on the community impact, transitioning to school use allowed for a significant reduction in surface parking, providing for the creation of dedicated bus and student drop-off areas, separate secured play yards and a new terrace, enhancing the indoor/outdoor activity connection.
Our responsibility as architects is to both dream and to build responsibly. We followed this path, and the result is a metamorphosis of a mute, unremarkable office building into a vibrant, new school that will engage the surrounding community and reflect a forward-thinking curriculum, as a transformational environment for many decades of emerging technology and learning experiences.
Commercial > Unbuilt
- Merit Award