Menlo-Atherton High School STEM Building

Atherton, California

The design of the STEM building for Menlo-Atherton High School, located in a suburban community between San Francisco and San Jose, embraces sustainable design through a “dialog” with the existing heritage Valley Oak trees on the site. The trees provide a variety of sustainability benefits, in addition to creating a direct link to nature. The 17,400-square-foot, two-story, steel-frame, L-shaped structure, which opened to students last fall, forms a courtyard under the canopy. The trees—to the south and west—shade the building where shade is most needed, and they filter the daylight that pours into classrooms.

The experience of arrival to the new building brings you through, under, but also up and into the canopy of trees. The first floor houses the two environmental science labs and a “makerspace,” a laboratory for robotics and other design-and-build projects, which fall under the umbrella of career technical education (CTE). The laboratory has an operable window wall that can be opened to allow the flow of fresh air and connect the rooms to the courtyard. The second floor houses two physics labs and the culinary arts lab. An oversized and pronounced gutter (leaf) collects all roof rainwater to feed into a courtyard rain garden through articulated downspouts while the textured facade is suggestive of the bark of the tree.

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