Horace Mann Middle School

San Diego, CA

Expansion of an Aging Campus Celebrates Diversity

A new three-story facility and a series of outdoor environments created a fresh identity for Horace Mann Middle School, one of San Diego’s most diverse schools, opened in 1952. On a tight budget, the new 42,000-sq.-ft. building celebrates the students’ cultural diversity, brings modern learning environments to a historically under-served community and seamlessly integrates the new building with the existing campus, despite a 15-foot gradient on the site.

The campus’ diversity is reflected in a graphic of the world map embedded in a perforated screen that covers the building’s community-facing façade. Coordinates mark the location of the school, highlighting the project’s design concept, “This is it. The place to be. The place to become.” A wide front entrance creates a welcoming front door for the campus, which groups administration and wellness services on the ground floor and classrooms on the second and third levels. A bridge on the second level connects the new building to the existing campus.

The learning spaces are designed around 16 classrooms and a variety of collaborative learning environments. Each classroom connects to a “spark” space, which might range from a reading nook to spaces for project-based and small group learning. Operable partitions, flexible furnishings and direct connections to collaborative spaces encourage student interactions and exploration.

Outdoor spaces were programmed for a range of activities, a first for the older campus. A grand stair with integral seating, an amphitheater, a shaded lunch shelter, and pockets of small group seating were developed into the site.

The high-performance building was designed for efficiency and future flexibility. Roof space was left clear for the potential of adding photovoltaic panels. A moment frame structure will allow spaces to be easily reconfigured as learning strategies evolve.

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