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San Mateo High School Old Brick Studio Building Historic Renovation/Adaptive Reuse

Architect / Firm: Quattrocchi Kwok Architects

Awards:    Year:    Entry Categories:

Awards:    Year:    Entry Categories:

Quattrocchi Kwok Architects

636 5th Street
Santa Rosa California 95404

Contact Person

Mark Quattrocchi
(707) 576-0829

Architectural Firm

Quattrocchi Kwok Architects


Alten Construction
anortz@altenconstruction.com, (510) 234-4200

Project Location: 506 N Delaware Street, San Mateo, CA 94401
Owner: San Mateo Union High School District
Completion Date: 09/15/2015


Originally constructed in the 1920s as a shops building, the San Mateo Union High School District (SMUHSD) sought a restoration and renovation of its historic “Old Brick Studio,” which had since fallen into disuse and neglect on the San Mateo High School campus. Re-envisioning the space – the last 1920s building on the campus – for much needed art studios, general education classrooms and large meeting spaces, Quattrocchi Kwok Architects (QKA) utilized the space’s vastness, grand northern clerestory light and robust industrial materials to make this vision come to life. The “new” building has been seismically upgraded throughout, historically restored on the exterior, and enhanced with new technology and modern amenities.


The reasonable SMUHSD budget kept the design team focused on getting the best use out of existing materials and conditions, with new work limited to safety and educational enhancement. Continual quality control inspections and constant contact with lead personnel from all trades ensured the highest possible quality. In addition, weekly scheduling efforts and mindfulness to the guaranteed maximum price ultimately led to a project that was completed on time and under budget. In fact, the district was credited back almost $100,000 upon completion by the Contractor.

Special Challenges/Unusual Characteristics

Any renovation is always going to experience unforeseen or unanticipated challenges, especially this complete repurposing of an almost 90-year-old building. The SMHS Old Brick Studio had changes in existing floor elevations as well as height limitations between the existing concrete headers and the finished floor that wreaked havoc on ADA path of travel. The design and construction team worked together to provide a combination of solutions including modified door transitions and platform ramps. Another challenge was to preserve the characteristics of the historic structure, while updating the building to serve contemporary user needs. This was accomplished by unobtrusive seismic additions, preservation of the existing brick historic facades, and maintenance of the large light filled interior volumes and finish materials.


While completely transformed for modern art and educational disciplines, the building itself celebrates its history. Although there are other new brick buildings on campus, only in this facility can you touch the original brick and concrete and find the revitalized original campus cornerstone. This physically creates a space where students can feel a part of their community’s history, as well as the care that the community continues to bestow on its schools. In fact, QKA actually reinstalled the original (demolished) school’s 1926 cornerstone in a prominent location for public viewing.

Other design features:

  • The building now includes three new art studios, two new meeting spaces, three new classrooms, a new IT department, campus art gallery, and dance/theater performance space.
  • Design was driven by the light and volume provided by repetitive east-facing “sawtooth” clerestory windows.
  • Art and display rooms were brought forward to the light, which was made softer and diffused by reglazing with refractive, light-scattering glass. These new art studios now feature soft, controlled light, and ample space and volume for creative exploration.
  • Smaller rooms were designed as low "rooms-within-a-room" to maintain the original main “sawtooth” volumes above. Studios are interconnected with each other and their support spaces, providing a variety of flexible learning environments, from small group work areas to gallery exhibition spaces.
  • Fulfilling a previously unmet need, the large group meeting space within the facility is now centrally located on campus, and without feeling like a gym or café, provides room for school and community gatherings and meetings.
  • The confident, repetitive rhythm of the brick exterior was also maintained with original openings and reglazed with mullioned storefronts. Many of these original exterior wall openings now serve as entrances, inviting users in and immediately expressing the character of the building.
  • Bleak asphalt and chain-link storage yards were transformed into outdoor learning and gathering spaces that blend into and connect with the surrounding campus.
  • High performance design features, such as material reuse and limited use of artificial lighting, directly inform and educate students on sustainability measures.
  • The building was designed using Collaborative for High Performance Schools guidelines (high scores achieved for reuse, conservation, restoration of existing materials, sustainable new materials, and natural light and ventilation).
Landscape Architect
Carducci & Associates, Inc.
Vincent Lattanzio, Principal
(415) 674-0990
Structural Engineer
ZFA Structural Engineers
Chris Warner, Senior Principal
(707) 526-0992

Civil Engineer
BKF Civil Engineers
Brock Roby, Project Manager
(707) 583-8500

MEP Engineer
Costa Engineers, Inc.
Tony Costa, Chief Mechanical Engineer
(707) 252-9177

Electrical Engineer
O’Mahony & Myer Electrical Engineering & Lighting Design
Pieter Colenbrander, Principal
(415) 492-0420
Quattrocchi Kwok Architects Design Team:

Mark Quattrocchi, AIA
(707) 576-0829

John Dybczak, AIA, LEED AP
(707) 576-0829

Senior Project Architect
Jon Stong
(707) 576-0829

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