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2d. Site Uses and Circulation

What are the various uses of a school and how are these parts arranged on the site?

Think about all the different functions that happen in your school building. The classrooms, science labs, gymnasium, auditorium, athletic fields, cafeteria, offices, storage rooms, and library are all different uses and require different spaces and functions on the site. Principal architect William Leddy of Leddy Maytum Stacy explains the architecture firm's process with the Nueva School project, "We go through a very lengthy investigative period in the concept design phase, which usually involves something as simple as doodles in my sketchbook."

In your school, various rooms may be joined into one sprawling building. But in warmer climates or in schools with a large site such as the Nueva School, several separate buildings with distinct functions - much like a university campus - may be constructed. Architects at Leddy Maytum Stacy chose to place the three main functions in three separate buildings on the site: a library (seen on the left), a classroom building (seen on the right), and a cafeteria / student center (not seen, located down the hill to the right).

The upper floor of the classroom building contains more formal classroom spaces that open on to balconies which function as outdoor hallways. Windows let daylight in from both the east and the west.

The lower floors of the classroom building contain labs and workshops where even very young students can work on projects and build models as part of a product design curriculum. The school's main administrative offices are also located on the lower level of the classroom building.

The library (seen on the left) and the classroom building are organized around a large V-shaped central plaza filled with small trees and benches which functions as the school's "town square."

Inside this elementary school library, open flexible spaces as well as quiet tutoring rooms provide places for students to learn in groups or study alone.

In warm weather, a large garage-like door in the middle of the cafeteria / student center rolls up to create additional space for outdoor seating. When the door is closed, and a small stage is installed, it creates a backdrop for plays or musical productions while the audience sits on the amphitheater steps and the lawn.

Inside the cafeteria, the tables and chairs can be moved around to provide seating for different types of gatherings.

Who are the different users of a school building and how does each group move around the site?

One of the biggest challenges for Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects was to find a way to link the new buildings they were designing with the existing buildings on the 33-acre Nueva School campus. This circulation diagram, created for the client, helped to illustrate those connections points and pathways.

Learning often takes places in informal situations at the Nueva School. In addition to the more formal classrooms with tables, chairs, and white boards, students and teachers often use the natural landscape for science class or to gather outside. Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects provided outdoor seating areas in the plaza space between the classroom building and the library in order to encourage this type of learning.

Even though the Nueva School is an elementary and middle school, it functions in many ways like a college campus where each building has its own function and students move between buildings for class, lunch, gym, and study time.

The mild climate of San Francisco allows for circulation paths such as staircases and hallways - which may be located inside at your school building - to be open to the outdoors.

Principal architect William Leddy explains, "The administration actually likes the fact that the kids get to walk around the campus to get from one place to another." Here, students climb the stairs in front of the classroom building, after leaving the cafeteria / student center.

What is the path to a school's front door and how is its main entrance shown?

According to William Leddy, "A big task of this project was to stitch the character of the campus together. There were all these diverse buildings sprinkled around and there was no really clear arrival place or clear front door to the campus." So we made a big deal about the front door and the entry porch element. We really wanted to announce: "Here you are. You've arrived at the Nueva School.'"

The sprawling campus of the Nueva School means that when visitors first enter the site from the main road, none of the school buildings can be seen, making the school's new "front door" that Leddy talked about so important.

A circular drive loops around the athletic field and eventually brings visitors to the Nueva School's new "front door" created by the new buildings and the wooden entry gate. Leddy explains, "It's important for visitors coming to a school building, or any building, actually, to know when they've arrived."

The built in benches also provide students with a shaded place to sit and wait after school until the bus arrives or until their parents pick them up. This "gateway" also connects the classroom building on the left with the library building on the right.