Redwood High School New Two-Story Classroom Building and Multipurpose Building

Intentions & Programming
The design team worked closely with staff from Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) to evaluate multiple options for renovating the facilities at Redwood High School (RHS), the District’s only continuation high school, to better meet the needs of the educational programs. This planning and design process included meetings and presentations with school staff, students, and community members. Through this process, it was determined that the biggest needs were modern classroom spaces to support the school’s new Career Technical Education (CTE) programs (a Digital Media Academy, Culinary Academy, and the Redwood Environmental Academy of Leadership (“REAL”) program), a new multipurpose building, and functional outdoor space for student gathering and outdoor education.

These meetings also made clear the importance of creating a new image of the school to the community, which was currently housed in a converted 1955 elementary school and a series of dilapidated portable classroom buildings. Like many continuation and alternative education programs, the RHS facilities felt like the “leftovers”, and the District did not want to be sending that message to the students and their families. These students deserved the same top-quality education and facilities as SUHSD’s other four comprehensive high schools. The proposed new facilities would both support the quality educational programs at the high school and re-define the public image of the school.

Distinguishing Aspects
RHS’s current crowded and dismal facilities needed significant upgrades to match the reinvigorated educational programs. To house the school’s new CTE programs, a new two-story classroom building replaced the converted elementary school building that was being used as the school’s primary classroom building. The highly modern building includes five classrooms, one science lab, a digital media arts classroom and video production lab, and a shops space and outdoor work area for the school’s unique REAL (Redwood Environmental Academy of Leadership) program, which provides multidisciplinary education with an environmental focus. The first floor of this building also includes the administration offices, offering a clear and welcoming entry point into the campus.

In addition to the new classroom building, Redwood High School (RHS) also needed a dedicated space for sports, events and assemblies. To serve this need, a new multipurpose building was designed to include a gymnasium, Student Union, and food service facilities. Students now have a place to exercise, socialize and eat under one roof. Lastly, a state-of-the-art Culinary Arts classroom supports the school’s new culinary CTE program.

Located along the main road, the large multipurpose building screens the campus classroom spaces from the noise generated by the street and nearby railroad tracks. These two new buildings sit side by side, with the administration lobby and Student Union facing each other, which forms a clear and welcoming entry point into the campus from the parking lot.

Design Challenge

One of the challenges on this project was designing the façade of the multipurpose building to serve several purposes and solve a variety of problems at the same time. The new building has a prominent place along Stafford Street, a busy road that runs parallel to the Caltrain tracks and future high-speed rail line and sets the first impression of the school to the public. In addition, because the multipurpose building predominantly houses the gymnasium space, its shape needed to be a simple rectangular box – where traditional glazing could typically be used to add some visual interest to such a simple shape, gymnasiums require a different approach due to glare concerns. This created a challenge to find a design that presented a dramatic visual despite the confines of its rectangular box shape, screened the campus from noise from the parallel busy street and train tracks, conveyed a strong and compelling sense of entry, and provided a large daylit space without glare. The solution was to use translucent glazing panels on the upper volume of the multipurpose building – the rectangular portion housing the gymnasium – and wrap that with lower volume spaces that contain the Culinary Arts classroom and support spaces. Connecting these two volumes is the Student Union, which compliments the box gymnasium shape with a dramatic roof and overhang and curtain wall façade that wraps the corner of the building, reaching out to the street and connecting to the courtyard. The Student Union helps draw visitors into the space and creates a welcoming sense of entry to the school. The translucent panels on the gymnasium volume were carefully designed through daylight modeling to provide an optimal amount of balanced light throughout the day without creating glare conditions that can negatively affect athletic events. The clean and simple lines of the gymnasium make a dramatic new impression for the school to motorists and train passengers as they move past the site. This effect is heightened at night when the building is used for events, as light spills out of the lobby and the translucent panels glow – backlighting the name of the school.

Physical Context

The campus needed to show that RHS students have not been forgotten and embody the District’s commitment to high-quality education for these students. To do this, the multipurpose building was installed with large walls of translucent glazing that glow at night to create a dramatic new image for the school and a beacon in the community. In addition, the metal paneling, exposed steel framing, and polished concrete floors in both buildings form a modern, industrial aesthetic in alignment with the contemporary design style dominant of the surrounding area. These sleek new buildings instill a sense of pride and inspiration to a student group that is often left out. The design also forms a secure learning environment by creating an enclosed campus with access controlled from the prominent administration entry. Once inside the campus, a sheltered courtyard provides outdoor space for student gathering and studying, creating a more cohesive school community. This courtyard is connected to Cordilleras Creek, which divides the classroom spaces on the west side of campus from a community garden on the east. A new pedestrian bridge replaced the 1950s concrete bridge that was inconvenient to get to from the campus core. The new bridge connects to the gardens from the center of campus and helps to support the culinary and REAL programs. Lastly, the new buildings are designed to exceed California requirements for energy efficiency using features such as high efficiency LED lighting and low emitting materials. The learning environments were designed with ample glazing for daylighting and student views of nature, and improved indoor air quality to increase student learning.