INTERNATIONAL STUDIES LEARNING CENTER
LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
The design/build team of Gonzalez Goodale Architects and Kemp Brothers won this invited design competition for a 500-student international studies middle school.
Sited across from its sister International High School, in the formerly industrial zone of Southgate along the Los Angeles River, the design proposed supplanting an existing cul-de-sac with a tree-lined shared middle school/high school drop-off which, importantly, created a central parkway between the schools, framed views to the historic trestle bridge crossing the L.A. River, and created a zone of unified green campus space between both schools.
In contrast to the neighboring high school's architecture, which employed industrial strength concrete block and limited openings against the south sun, this school faces north to its frontage, allowing the building a nimble, colorful, and open glassy expression, befitting its middle-school-aged cohort.
In addition to fulfilling the LAUSD program for a middle school, the design is an armature for social interaction, as well as for the display of international exhibits and artifacts. An intimate central quad is surrounded by both the programmed architecture and a string of social spaces that include a series of gardens containing 30-student gathering circles; large low landings to exterior exit stairways that double as social gathering spaces; a niche for film-viewing and outdoor performance; smaller, quiet seating niches; and a central lunch shelter that presides axially over the quad. Thus the quad is ringed with social activity.
Internationally elements include an international flag circle at the arrival/drop-off; a sand-blasted global map on the floor of the central quad; screens/fences with laser-cut ground-plans of historic world cities; and multiple indoor and outdoor display niches throughout the school.
The design's formal and sustainable strategies are of a single piece; the building form's rising in roof profile from south to north, with the north facades collecting light in the most extroverted, glassy fashion. Virtually no openings face the direct east and west sun.
Finally notable is the school's connection with the community, wherein the quad and its anchoring lunch shelter can open directly to the street, allowing weekend or evening hosting of international festivals, fairs, and events.