Sunkist Elementary School

Anaheim, California

A Colorful, Connected Campus for Optimized Learning

The design for Sunkist Elementary School draws inspiration from its agricultural heritage and visual and performance curriculum to create a haven for its students and community. Two new buildings, along with a sensitive modernization of three existing structures, ensure equity in the educational experience. Simple wellness goals are integrated into 100% of the educational spaces, including access to daylight and meaningful views, access to dedicated collaboration spaces, and integration of active design principles to encourage movement and activity.

In a series of charrettes and visioning sessions, district leaders, faculty, staff, students and community stakeholders identified three key values to support contemporary learning and future flexibility: innovation, diversity and collaboration. The new courtyard supports the school’s VAPA curriculum by combining indoor and outdoor spaces for collaboration, gathering, and performance for the entire school. It includes an amphitheater, lunch shelter and outdoor performance stage. Upper walkways and exterior stair landings ringing the courtyard double as gallery space for students. The landscape design was inspired by the agricultural history of the area, and includes native citrus trees, and concrete patterning reminiscent of crop rows.

In the new design, voids were carved out of existing academic buildings to create new entries that promote visibility and provide direct circulation to the rest of campus. Thanks to a host of perimeter windows, all classrooms in both the new and renovated buildings have access to natural light and views, with walls of interior glass spreading illumination and promoting a sense of connection. All classroom wings feature varying collaborative learning spaces and informal learning opportunities, such as writeable walls along corridors. Classrooms are designed to be as flexible as possible, allowing for different teaching modalities. Technology can be easily incorporated to accommodate combinations of remote and in-person learners.

Playful and colorful elements were articulated in the design to promote easy wayfinding and to encourage physical movement, in the case of entry portals, canopies and exterior stairs. Corrugated metal, a ubiquitous material in agricultural structures, was reinvented as a playful patterned façade along the street.

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