School Construction Begins at Site of Former Ambassador Hotel
Construction work begins in June at the Los Angeles Unified School District’s most ambitious project to date – the new Heritage K-12 School Campus at the site of the former Ambassador Hotel on Wilshire Boulevard. Architects for the project, Gonzalez|Goodale of Pasadena, announced that the K-3 School Building will be the first structure on the Campus, with an anticipated completion date of fall, 2009.
Work on the K-3 School will enable the area’s young students to begin classes at the new facility a year before the middle and high school buildings are completed. One of the largest school construction projects in the country, the Heritage K-12 Campus will feature classrooms, a central mechanical equipment plant and a 320-car parking structure with playfields above. When complete, approximately 4,400 students will attend the K-12 School. Hensel Phelps Construction Co. is serving as general contractor on the project.
“The new Campus will alleviate some significant problems faced by families in this area of Los Angeles,” says Harry R. Drake, AIA, principal and Heritage K-12 project manager at Gonzalez|Goodale. “Most of these students are now being bused to distant, overcrowded schools, which was especially challenging for the K-3 age group. Soon, they will be able to attend school in their own neighborhood. No student will live more than nine blocks from the school.”
The K-3 School will house 1,150 students and is approximately 60,000 square feet. The building consists of 46 classrooms in a two-story structure that will be located at the southwest corner of the Ambassador Hotel site, with the main entrance and vehicular drop-off area along 8th Street.
While the children will be physically separated throughout much of the day, there are times when older and younger students will co-mingle. “This is the first new K-12 campus that LAUSD will build and we have carefully developed a partnership with the community and the Local Superintendents Office to ensure that this campus provides a safe, inclusive environment with great opportunities for mentoring and collaboration,” says Eugene Aguirre, Senior Design Manager at Los Angeles Unified School District. “The architects were able to design the Campus to offer the flexibility to mix the students when appropriate.”
Gonzalez|Goodale designed the K-3 School with special features aimed at offering a safe, quality learning environment for young children, while addressing concerns from area residents. “There were questions from the surrounding business community about potential traffic problems created during arrival and dismissal of school, so we designed the Campus to have three separate entrances for the kindergartners, grades one through three, and middle and high school student bodies,” says David L. Goodale, AIA, design principal. Most students are expected to walk to school, further reducing traffic problems.
Children will play in an interior private courtyard, and enjoy a giant mosaic labyrinth designed by artist Lynn Goodpasture. The labyrinth is just one element of a significant public art program that will highlight various areas of the Campus.
Although it is part of the Heritage School Campus, the K-3 School will be separated from the middle and high school buildings. The design intent is to have the students occupy one campus, yet provide distinct spaces and buildings that elementary, middle and high school students can call their own. Instead of barrier-like fences, the youngest students are separated by the site’s elevation, which creates a natural barrier between the buildings. The high school buildings will be built approximately 30 feet above the K-3 School.
“In order to connect the spaces between the buildings for the younger and older students, we designed a natural amphitheatre,” says Goodale. Wide, grassy steps descend from the high school building and form seating for all-school events. At the base of the natural amphitheatre sits the multipurpose area of the K-3 building. When needed, a large wall that faces the amphitheater can be completely raised, exposing an open stage area that can be used for performances or assemblies.
Gonzalez|Goodale says the project will exceed the tough environmental standards set out by the CHPS (Collaborative for High Performance Schools). “One of the measures we are most excited about is the use of a technology called thermal displacement ventilation,” says Drake. “Air is delivered from the lower portion of the walls, instead of the traditional delivery from the ceiling. The upward air flow creates improved air quality and quickly moves germs upward and out of the environment. Studies have shown that these systems help prevent the spread of contagious colds and coughs, helping children to avoid sick days.” The architects also planned for naturally lit spaces, which have been demonstrated to improve academic performance, in addition to reducing energy costs.
“We believe that good design can help provide an inspirational environment for both teachers and students,” says Armando L. Gonzalez, FAIA, principal in charge. “It is our hope that that this Campus will be an impetus for the return of the neighborhood school, where the physical space fosters learning.”