Alliance for College Ready Public Schools
Client: Pacific Charter School Developement
Scope: New Construction
Size: 54,000 SF
Project Manager: Mark Hembree, AIA, LEED AP
Berliner and Associates Architecture’s (BAA) design of the new middle and high schools on First Street in East Los Angeles, which are being developed for Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools by Pacific Charter School Development, was driven by the desire to reinforce, invigorate, and revitalize the surrounding community. The two schools making up the First Street Campus are: The Media Arts and Entertainment High School, and The College-Ready Middle Academy.
For years the site has been home to the First Street Store, a department store that played an important role on this street, which is lined with two story buildings with storefront retail on the first floor and apartments above. The store is unique in that its façade contains 17 tile murals (5’x11’) depicting the Mexican–American history of this largely Hispanic community. The former owner of the store commissioned local artists to create the murals sometime in the 1970s. There is also a large mural containing the initials of the store: F.S.S. The department store, however, has been vacant for several years, creating a large void on this street which could serve as a vital core for the surrounding community, but is in need of some rejuvenation.
The design intent of the project, in which the two-story schools containing exterior balconies ring a large courtyard, was two-fold. The project seeks, through its scale, mass, material, and fenestration, to reinforce and enhance the existing street, while simultaneously establishing something of an oasis, removed from the noise, heat, and distractions of the street for the students within the courtyard.
There is a multi-purpose room, to be shared by both schools, at the south edge of the courtyard, framed by the bar buildings running around the other three sides, and marking the entrance to the high school for the students and parents coming from the drop-off and parking area. The multi-purpose room functions as the signature piece of the project, and because it doesn’t need to mind the urban edges in the same way as the other buildings, its form and geometry are purposefully more playful. The multi-purpose room’s north façade, facing the courtyard, is composed entirely of storefront with large folding doors allowing student events and community gatherings to spill out into the courtyard, protected by the large cantilevered roof 30 feet above.
BAA believes that color plays an important role in the design of exciting and effective schools. In this project, the exterior of the buildings are clad in a lively, tri-color running bond pattern of cementitious siding, which works to activate the courtyard, while invigorating the public façade and giving the street an aesthetic shot in the arm.