Located in California wine country, Roseland University Prep, a charter high school of 400 students, got its start in 2004 in an old warehouse—a dark, nearly windowless structure that had been minimally renovated. Still, the administrators and teachers created a highly successful learning environment for its predominantly Latino community, leading to a 95 percent average graduation rate. When the swelling student population outgrew the building, the school administration set their architectural ambitions high as well, hiring the San Francisco–based Aidlin Darling Design, a firm known for its attention to detail and craft in projects such as the Windhover Contemplative Center at Stanford University (record, February 2015). The architects designed a dynamic, expansive 30,800-square-foot building—under a tight public-school budget. “This has been one of our most rewarding projects, because we were able to make such a radical change,” says principal Joshua Aidlin. “It’s a scrappy building, sculpted and crafted from the cheapest materials, that is durable and flexible.”
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The high school, which includes 17 classrooms, a science lab, and an art room, cost $16.1 million, funded through a state grant and matching loan and augmented with $1.5 million in private donations. California allocated $12.9 million for construction costs, but all eight base bids were at least $1 million under that number, allowing for additional features such as more windows and new furniture. The architects, who had never done a school before, kept costs down by sticking to simple finishes and components with straightforward construction methods. In addition, they say they provided extremely detailed drawings, to minimize ambiguity and change orders.
The two-story high school stands out in sharp relief against a low-slung residential neighborhood in Santa Rosa, a large town in quasi-rural Sonoma County. The contemporary structure gives a nod to local agricultural buildings with its sloping single-gabled roof and corrugated metal cladding. One of the architects’ inspirations came from the utilitarian, prefabricated agrarian sheds common in the area. To incorporate plentiful natural light and ventilation, the firm divided the barn-like structure along its spine, stretching the western half beyond the eastern wing to the north and south. The elongated west wing houses nearly all of the classrooms and provides views of the sports field and distant Mayacamas Mountains through floor-to-ceiling windows or glass doors at both ends of its long central corridors. The architects also carved out a daylight-filled volume at the heart of the structure to create a commons. Flanked by bands of glazing, this double-height multipurpose atrium makes up the bulk of the building’s smaller east side, where the administration offices are located.
The commons is a key gathering space, where students take lunch breaks, come for breakfast before school hours, and have after-school study hall. Enclosed by a 40-foot polycarbonate barn door to the east and glazed folding doors to the west, this “big room,” as it is called, is dominated by a span of wooden bleachers on one side and serves as an assembly area for both school and community events. It connects seamlessly with the outdoors during lunch, when the barn door can slide to open the lofty interior. Even when the door is closed, its translucent panels transmit additional daylight into the space. A secluded courtyard to the west provides a quieter place for students to congregate. “The building is a beautiful, calming learning environment,” says Amy Jones-Kerr, superintendent of the Roseland School District.
The design team clad the building with corrugated galvanized steel, employing stucco-like walls sparingly along the base of the building. To maintain a uniform facade, they deployed perforated aluminum panels over the windows of the administration offices and elsewhere, which provide sunlight as well as vistas of the grounds and surrounding landscape while offering privacy and solar shading. Given the budget, the team used basic, sustainable materials. These include an acoustical roof decking—made of wood fibers bound by cement—that resembles spaghetti. Inside, the architects used plywood paneling in the classrooms, polished the structural concrete slab on the ground level, and installed gypcrete covered with linoleum on the second floor.
The new Roseland University Prep opened in the fall of 2017. During the evening, the school glows through all of the glazing. “It is across from the middle and elementary schools, so we wanted it to be a beacon and inspiration to the children and show them that this is their pathway to success,” says Aidlin. Both administrators and students are grateful just to have a modern, functioning facility—with, says junior J.J. Arcega, a roof that doesn’t leak. He also appreciates how spacious the classrooms are, compared to the old school—and that there is dedicated outdoor space where students can hang out, instead of being limited to a parking lot and basketball court.
The new facility is clearly a source of pride. “I thought I was going to have to say that I went to high school in a warehouse,” says Arcega. “Now we’ve got a nice building.”
Aidlin Darling Design
500 Third Street, Suite 410
San Francisco, CA 94107
Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
Joshua Aidlin, AIA , David Darling, AIA – Principals
Roslyn Cole, AIA LEED – Project Manager
Leonard Ng, Tory Wolcott, Sean Kakigi, Julia Arria, Samina Saude – Project Team
Architect of record:
Aidlin Darling Design
Aidlin Darling Design
Structural Engineer: Rutherford and Chekene
Mechanical Engineer: 15000 Inc.
Electrical Engineer & Lighting: O’Mahony & Myers
Civil Engineer: Brelje & Race Consulting Engineers
Education Consultant: Studio Bondy Architecture
Acoustical Consultant: Acoustic Arts & Engineering
Code Consultant: The Preview Group
Waterproofing Consultant: SGH
State Funding Approval Consultant: Jack Schreder & Associates
Project Collaborator: Studio Bondy
Landscape Architect: Miller Company Landscape Architects
Construction Manager: Counterpoint Construction Services
Specifications: Top Flight Specs
Metal panels: Metal Sales
Metal/glass curtain wall: Arcadia Inc.
Rainscreen: Metal Sales
EIFS, ACM, or other: Dryvit
Moisture barrier: Vaproshield
Built-up roofing: Sika
Metal: Metal Sales
**Roofing Underlayment: Grace
Metal frame: Arcadia
Insulated-panel or plastic glazing: ExTech, Inc.
Entrances: Arcadia Inc.
Metal doors: Arcadia Inc.
Wood doors: Algoma Hardwoods, Inc.
Fire-control doors, security grilles: Cornell
Special doors: Crown Industrial
Exit devices: Von Duprin
Pulls: Forms + Surfaces, Ives
Other special hardware: Horton Automatics Door Operator
Acoustical ceilings: Tectum
Acoustical ceilings: Decoustics
Acoustical ceilings: Armstrong
Cabinetwork: Shasta Wood Products, Inc.
Custom woodwork: European Hardwood Floors
Paints and stains: Dunn-Edwards
Plastic laminate: Formica
Solid surfacing: Durcon Incorporated
White Board & Chalkboard: Platinum Visual Systems
Tackboard Panels: Homasote
Floor and wall tile: Daltile
Resilient flooring: Forbo Flooring Systems
Resilient flooring: Nora Systems, Inc
Carpet: Shaw Contract
Special interior finishes unique to this project:
Window Shades: Mecho
Office furniture: Steelcase
Lounge furniture: Steelcase, Coalesse
Classroom & Big Room Chairs: Community
Classroom Tables: Smith System
Science and Art Classroom Tables: Heick’s
Science and Art Classroom Stools: School
Big Room Tables: Sico
Exterior furniture: DuMor, Inc.
Interior ambient lighting:
Dimming system or other lighting controls: Lutron
Dimming system or other lighting controls: WattStopper
Water Closet: American Standard
Lavatory Faucet: Kohler
Classroom Faucet: Chicago Faucets
Drinking Fountain: Haws
Eye Wash Station: Haws