Sacred Heart Schools William V. Campbell Academic and Arts Center

The Sacred Heart Schools (SHS) is an independent school in Atherton, CA serving approximately 1,600 students grades pre-kindergarten through 12, with an embedded mission to educate the whole child, to model social awareness, sustainability and community, and to foster interaction and cross-disciplinary learning. Once an all-girls school, the 60-acre campus comprises educational and community programs including the Lower School, Middle School and High School. WRNS Studio’s work for Sacred Heart Schools began with the master plan and design of the school’s Pre-K through 8 campus and includes a renovated gymnasium, a new Athletic Building, a renovated Preschool and most recently the new Academic Arts Center. The Pre-K – 8 campus included four new buildings, including the award-winning Stevens Net Zero Library. This is the first Net Zero Energy school library certified by the International Living Futures Institute in the United States.

The new Academic and Arts Center, serves as an interdisciplinary hub of activity housing a dance studio, maker spaces, quiet lounges, fine arts, ceramics, broadcast rooms, choral and band facilities, language arts, a photography dark room, classrooms, and career and student support spaces including personal and academic counseling spaces. The building was designed to support cross-disciplinary collaboration, informal interaction, and flexible educational models with a variety of shared, intimate spaces both inside and outside the classroom. Sustainable strategies were woven into every aspect of the project.

A focus on comfort, natural daylight, good air quality and reduced carbon drove the systems and material choices.  The all-electric project includes radiant heating and cooling in the floors, ceiling fans in all learning spaces, an induction cooktop in the teaching kitchen, and operable windows which help reduce mechanical ventilation by 25%. Daylight Autonomy was key in driving planning and building envelope design. At-grade glass skylight planks along the building perimeter along with skylights in the main corridor, dance space, and stair hubs ensure good daylight balance and distribution within teaching spaces. Exterior automated shades help mitigate heat load and glare while providing good daylight usage.

Movable walls provide educational flexibility with visual connections to indoor and outdoor learning environments. Project work rooms serve as impromptu collaboration space and team rooms. A series of multifunctional and flex spaces are sprinkled throughout the three floors to ensure opportunities for social engagement and mentorship. Creative spaces include a digital media and dark room, TV studio, ceramic arts, painting, maker and woodworking spaces, dance, music and drama thread through the entire building. By bringing this diverse program under one roof, the building breaks down the barriers between academics, art, and tinkering, helping to foster a supportive, collaborative environment.

With its high performance envelope, great use of daylight, and low energy mechanical systems, this high energy demand project is projected with an EUI of 20.1.  With the fine tuning of the planning and systems, a 346 kW PV array is installed on the roof and expected to result in a Net Zero Energy all electric building.

A natural material palette—brick, wood and metal—adds visual interest with details such as a ‘crinkled curtain’ in the dance studio made of perforated aluminum skin. An amphitheater located adjacent to the band facilities flows into the landscape, supporting performance and events while doubling as an outdoor classroom. Landscape design helps support different types of learning experiences through the campus.

The building’s material palette, massing, and circulation provide a sense of continuity with the campus’s architectural centerpiece, the historic Romanesque “Old Main” building, which opened in 1898. Serving as a counter to the “Old Main”, the Academic and Arts Building extends the landscaped Mall and forms a new gateway for one of the main entries to campus. WRNS redesigned the Mall to be more active and provide better connections to existing campus buildings and pathways.

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