Johnson Middle School

Westminster, California

New “learning machines” blur lines between math, science and art

The master plan for Johnson Middle School in Westminster, California meets the school district’s requirement that each building act as a high-tech “learning machine.” Studies evolve and flow through connected, glass-enclosed spaces with exterior links. The new buildings form a quad, supplemented with outdoor learning areas, at the heart of the campus.

The innovative new Exploration Center is designed to stimulate discovery and to trigger spontaneous, personalized learning. This two-story building with a transparent first floor blurs the lines between math, science and the arts, allowing for overlapping courses, hands-on experiment zones and project-based learning. Designed to be highly flexible, the 26,330-square-foot center features labs that can be configured to support small, medium and large groups. The labs also integrate and share current and anticipated technologies—from digital and recording studios to computer labs and interactive lecture areas.

Glass-enclosed connections to the outdoors lead to playful architectural landscape elements and areas that inspire creative learning and physical activity. Sandblasted text, illustrating units of length in outdoor concrete, aids student comprehension and memory. Interactive chimes promote the art and science of music through auditory development.

The new 22,390-square-foot gymnasium, a joint-use facility with the community, occupies the front of the campus for easy access. Inside, a stage and renovated kitchen serve school and community theatrical and musical performances and events. Fitness and other classes are also available to Westminster residents.

The LEED for Schools Silver-certified project sited new buildings to maximize daylighting and minimize heat gain. Operable windows allow natural light and fresh air to circulate among indoor areas. Energy-efficient glass and roofing materials decrease heating and cooling loads on the mechanical system, while efficient plumbing and drought-tolerant landscaping conserve water. In the renovated campus with buildings dating from the 1950s, 75 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills.

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