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K-12 Projects San Francisco


Introduction ― 4 Selected Projects ― 8 Our Team ― 74

Left: The Urban School, San Francisco, CA


― K-12 San Francisco

Transitional environments for engaging minds Learning environments for the K-12 years—a time when students are going through physical, intellectual, emotional, and social changes—requires thoughtful design. These facilities should provide a natural transition between the self-contained world of elementary school and the high school world that inspires both academic and personal exploration.


K-12 San Francisco

Spaces that inspire personal exploration and promote engagement.


Research shows that when adolescents are engaged in their own learning, they are more likely to achieve at higher levels. K-12 schools should promote engagement among students, placing a strong priority on collaboration, vision, and culture.



― K-12 San Francisco

Selected Projects


Alta Vista School San Francisco, California Client: Alta Vista Size: 14,235 square feet Completion Date: 2017


Cutting-edge upper school campus



Alta Vista School


Alta Vista School approached us to create a new middle

classroom and common spaces showcase constant activity

school to house their quickly expanding student body. Alta

and bring natural daylight into the building. Between

Vista had recently leased a shell retail space in the heart of

each room are large clerestories, bringing natural light

the Mission with limited windows and no yard, and wanted

and emphasizing the intertwined program and layering

to turn this space into a vibrant and active environment that

of spaces. The building houses a black box theater that

would enhance their rich STEAM program as well as reflect

opens into the commons, music practice rooms, as well as

the school’s values of responsibility, character development,

basketball and volleyball courts.

integrity, and freedom.

The interiors of these spaces are designed to reflect the

Challenged by the tight schedule and dark space, we

mutual respect and trust demonstrated by Alta Vista

designed a solution that organized the program around

students and staff. This translates into clean spaces with

an open commons surrounded by classrooms. The makers

crisp use of color and finishes and refined whimsical

classroom, which is integral to Alta Vista’s collaborative and

touches used in unexpected ways through lighting, furniture

interactive program, is given prime space along the exterior

and graphics.

windows. Expansive interior windows between the makers


Lick Wilmerding High School San Francisco, California Client: Lick Wilmerding High School Size: 34,000 square feet Completion Date: 2003-2013 Sustainability: Designed for LEED Gold Certification Awards: The Green Guides, “One of the Top Ten Green Schools in the US,” 2005; AIA California Council Awards, Merit Design, 2004; AIA SF, Best of the Bay Design Excellence Merit Award, 2004


A union of three industrial arts schools founded circa 1900, Lick’s rich history is portrayed through the campus’s aesthetic.

← The large open space was preserved by siting the new Technology and Design Center under the plane of the existing field.



Lick Wilmerding High School

Here’s one way to expand a campus: Slice into the earth and insert glassy studios along a walkway open to the sky, framed by older structures. That’s how Pfau Long Architecture satisfied the need for extra space at this private high school emphasizing the technical arts. What’s important isn’t the cool factor; it’s the way truly innovative architecture can take unexpected forms and, in the process, energize everything around it. - JOHN KING, “DECADE IN REVIEW: TOP 10 IN S.F. ARCHITECTURE,” SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

The tight, constrained urban site only provided buildable areas that were contrary to good design practice. We developed an alternative solution that placed the building beneath the existing field with no loss of open space, oriented away from harsh east and west sun, and from freeway noise. In creating this new centralized core and articulated roofscape, the previously un-programmed space of the field is transformed into more dynamic, specialized landscaped places that encourage positive student interaction. Recently, we also developed new master plan for Lick Wilmerding High School help determine the best way to improve and expand the campus over the next 20 years.

� Lick is well known for integrating academic courses with technical and fine arts, so the new Technology and Design Center was established at the heart of campus.

The Urban School San Francisco, California Client: The Urban School Size: 63,600 square feet Completion Date: 2015 Sustainability: LEED Gold® Awards: Outstanding Design, Facilities & Recreation Centers, American School & University, 2016


Innovative solutions for a high school located in the heart of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury neighborhood.

Full-sized cross court gymnasium can be transformed into an event center.

The Urban School


An old Victorian house was winched, fully intact, to the edge of the project site in one day.

The Urban School hired us to develop a solution for their crammed campus. After decades of use, their existing campus in the middle of San Francisco evolved into a disconnected maze of smaller rooms that didn’t support the school’s commitment to inclusivity, collaboration and an active membership in the larger community and the world beyond. We came up with an innovative solution to solve Urban’s City-based challenge. Our team negotiated the use of neighboring church land to develop a combined classroom and full cross court gym, provided that the design for the new building incorporated parking that the Church could use. The old Victorian house that sat in the middle of the church’s land posed an interesting challenge for the project team. To solve this issue, we decided to physically move the Victorian house to the edge of the property line. The house, fully intact, was winched over to the edge of the site in a day. At the end of the process, Urban’s Academic and Wellness Center included seven flexible classrooms, two-level student commons, a full-sized cross court gymnasium (which can also be used as an event center), a commercial kitchen and café, and casual meeting spaces and areas for reflection.

← To fully maximize the available space, we activated the rooftop area with an outdoor turf field and additional student commons. This rooftop space also offers panoramic views of the Panhandle, Sutro Tower, and the city beyond, further reflecting the school’s place and mission within the community.


Sugar Bowl Academy Norden, California Client: Sugar Bowl Academy ― Size: 29,000 square feet total; 10,530 square foot academic building, 9,200 square foot dormitory ― Completion Date: 2014


A new, state-of-the-art college preparatory campus for academic and athletic excellence.

Sugar Bowl Academy



Sustainable strategies incorporated wind turbines, natural ventilation, a geothermal heat pump, hydronic heating and cooling, and solar/photovoltaic systems. The Sugar Bowl Academy is a college preparatory school, providing an exceptional academic and athletic experience for students. This project encompassed a feasibility study, planning, programming, and conceptual design for a new ski academy campus community that develops the mind, body and spirit of the world’s snow sport athletes. The facility program includes classrooms, dining area, kitchen, lounge, gym facility, ski training facility, dormitory rooms for 50 boarding students, faculty apartments, and administrative spaces. Located in the Lake Tahoe region, the project included complex planning and programming issues such as site restrictions, scheduling, and phasing.

← Large windows highlight Lake Tahoe’s incredible landscape.


San Francisco Friends School San Francisco, California Client: San Francisco Friends School ― Size: 80,000 square feet ― Completion Date: 2013 ― Sustainability: LEED Silver ® ― Awards: Energy and Sustainability Design Citation Award, AIA SF Design Awards, 2009; One of the City’s Top Green Projects, Office of the Mayor and AIA, SF, 2009; Award of Merit, AIA CC Savings by Design Awards, 2009


Historic Levi Strauss factory building adapted for a growing independent K-8 school.


San Francisco Friends School


The original wooden factory floor was preserved and incorporated into the design.

The Friends School is an independent K-8 school, with a curriculum based on the Quaker educational tradition. Due to the school’s increasing student population, the school could no longer function in its old location and subsequently purchased the historic Levi Strauss Blue Jean Factory in the Mission District. Originally built in 1906 after the earthquake, the building has a rich history that the school wished to respect with the design of their school. The design objectives were to create a positive learning environment out of the historically significant manufacturing building, express the school’s Quaker values through the simplicity and restraint of the design, and demonstrate a high level of environmental stewardship. Great care was taken in creating a positive learning environment aligned with the mission of the school’s values such as community life, social responsibility, academic excellence, and attention to the emotional growth of the individual. The 80,000 square foot building contains classroom commons, meeting rooms, a dining area, library, a gymnasium, a black box theatre, art/ performance commons, and a student art gallery. A 10,000 square foot space in front of the building, located on Valencia Street, provides a garden and additional play area. Flexible spaces are created for multiple types of uses and classrooms can easily be adapted for use by different age groups. Sustainable design has been implemented as well as sensitivity to the existing historical building, which contains features such as all-wood construction, oversized columns and trusses, high ceilings, openness, and natural light – all features which are in harmony with the school’s Quaker heritage.

← Original factory floor detail


College Preparatory School Oakland, California Client: College Preparatory School ― Size: 5 acres ― Completion Date: 2014


A master plan for long range development.

Aerial view of the learning commons.

College Preparatory School


College Prep sits on a 5-acre campus in Oakland’s Rockridge neighhborhood, nestled among native plants and eucalyptus trees. We were engaged to develop a strategy, approach, and a Campus Master Plan in concert with College Preparatory’s Strategic Plan. We evaluated the existing site, facilities, and planning parameters, and ultimately presented the master plan and recommendations to the School and Board in March 2014.


Marin Montessori School Corte Madera, California Client: Marin Montessori School ― Size: 12,000 square feet ― Completion Date: 2005



Campus is reunified through the relationships of indoor to outdoor spaces.

Marin Montessori School


The buildings are directly inspired by the writings of Dr. Maria Montessori

Located on a prime waterfront site in Marin County, this project provides approximately 12,000 gsf of new classroom and administrative space, while seeking to reunify the campus master plan through relationships of indoor to outdoor space. The buildings are directly inspired by the writings of Dr. Maria Montessori, and conform to the guidelines of American Montessori International (and NAMTA) for teaching excellence. The master plan for the site locates the new structures in a manner that preserves the maximum amount of outdoor space for the children. Classrooms are all placed at grade, providing easy access to newly re-configured outdoor play spaces. Outdoor deck spaces are uniformly located at the end of each classroom, providing fluid movement for children and easy visual supervision. The orientation of the buildings takes advantage of solar orientation, natural ventilation, and striking views from the site.

Berkeley Montessori School Berkeley, California Client: Berkeley Montessori School Size: 15,000 square feet Completion Date: 2004


Master plan and renovation of an historic Santa Fe railroad depot for a K-8 Montessori school.

The building program is organized to provide flexible phasing which accommodates all of the required program at initial use, yet still allows for future expansion. Key elements of the plan include a U-shaped courtyard with an open connection to the park, elementary classrooms with direct access at-grade, middle school classrooms with access to a balcony, and an after school space connected to an outdoor playground.

Berkeley Montessori School


As a result of a winning competition entry, the master plan and design for a former historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot site achieves the best balance between the urban site context, the pedagogical needs of a Montessori teaching environment, and a strong attention to sustainable building. The overall plan is thoughtful and flexible, addressing budgetary constraints with the need to create a stimulating, flexible and playful setting for the students. Careful siting, massing, program organization and use of materials combine to create an exciting new home for the Berkeley Montessori community that celebrates the history of the Santa Fe building as the centerpiece of the new campus and provides the best possible environment for children to learn via the Montessori teaching experience.

→ The trellis elements define circulation patterns, creating a sense of community and a connected environment for the children.


Willows Community School Culver City, California Client: The Willows Community School ― Size: 40,000 square feet ― Completion Date: Phase I - 2015; Phase 2 - TBD


Master planning and design for long range development



Willows Community School

The master plan for a developmental Kindergarten through 8th grade school reenvisions their campus for the next 15-20 years. Established 15 years ago within an industrial district, the Willows Community School campus consists of five existing warehouse buildings that the school acquired and developed for school use. The facilities have served them well over the years, but as the school continues to grow, the campus has begun to outlive its current configuration. Strategic needs for the school include increasing the size of the middle school, creating a new science and technology center, creating a new art and film center, improving and enlarging outdoor play space and creating a parking arrangement that will fit the needs of the school for the future. Phase 1, which includes the renovation of the school entrance and play yard, was recently completed.



Marin Primary School Corte Madera, California Client: Marin Primary and Middle School Size: 88,000 square feet Completion Date: Ongoing


A master plan for growth and new facilities for an independent K-8 day school.

� The campus includes new play areas, an outdoor amphitheater, and stunning views of Mt. Tam.


Marin Primary School

Marin Primary & Middle School is a K-8 grade independent day school located on an eight acre site on the border between Larkspur and Corte Madera in Marin County. Anticipating a growth in the student population, the campus master plan creates a more cohesive campus, as well as designates new and renovated facilities to support enrollment. The master plan includes a new multipurpose building and covered outdoor area, new play areas and amphitheater, new middle school classrooms and science room, new preschool lobby/entry, renovated after school space, renovated classrooms/breakout room, and ADA/accessibility upgrades to the middle school and play areas. The school is in the process of building the multipurpose building.

St. Paul’s Episcopal School Oakland, California Client: St. Paul’s Episcopal School ― Size: 13,000 square foot, 8,000 square foot addition ― Completion Date: 2012

St. Paul’s Episcopal School


Master plan and renovation of existing commercial building for use as a private middle school.

In the early 1990’s, St. Paul’s purchased two adjacent lots to its main campus at 116 Montecito Avenue and subsequently developed a strategic master plan in 2002 that outlined a significant growth in enrollment within seven years. As a result, in the 2004 master plan we outlined a development framework for the school’s Montecito campus, as well as its Grand Avenue property. Based on the master plan, this project increases the overall classroom space for grades 3-5 and constructs a new gymnasium. The existing historic Casa Romana building, built in 1923, was renovated for use as a library and computer lab and connects to the new gymnasium. The new 8,000 sf gymnasium will accommodate athletic competitions as well as full school assemblies of up to 500 people. The gymnasium also provides accessible roof play space complete with a synthetic turf soccer field, hardscape play and multi-purpose terrace, and a play structure.


Presidio Hill School San Francisco, California Client: Presidio Hill School Size: 88,000 square feet Completion Date: 2017


Adaptive re-use of home into a lower school.



Presidio Hill School


Founded in 1918 inspired by the teachings of John Dewey and the Progressive Education Movement, this 100-yearold school has established a long history in the Presidio Heights neighborhood. As the residential neighborhood developed around them, their existing campus eventually reached capacity. The school acquired an existing historical home nearby, which allowed the Transitional Kindergarten through 2nd graders to move to the Maple Street property. The project involved the adaptive reuse of this space for educational purposes, and created a new learning commons and makers space for the entire K-8 school to use. The new property also doubled the outdoor yard space, creating more room for the students to both learn and play in the larger outdoor area.


Park Day School Oakland, California Client: Park Day School Size: 20,000 square feet Completion Date: 2010



Park Day School


Adaptive reuse of a historic building for a K-8 independent school.

The renovation and adaptive re-use of the Matilda Brown Home included seismic structural upgrade, creating classrooms out of the old corridor lined with dormitory rooms, and creating circulation on the outside in the courtyard, allowing rooms to have light and ventilation from two sides. The building’s existing kitchen was reused and the original parlor and dining room will be converted into a media center and conference room. The reuse of a historic building is a conscious sustainable statement and the renovation of the Matilda Brown Home was as green as possible, using a high efficiency boilers to warm radiators in the classrooms, replacing an old steam boiler. The school utilized natural ventilation, energy efficient lighting and plumbing fixtures, low emitting and high recycled content materials, and installed photovoltaics on the south facing roof.


St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School San Mateo, California Client: St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School ― Size: 20,000 square feet ― Completion Date: Phase 1 2012, Phase 2 - 2013


New master plan defining the long-term strategic goals of both the school and the associated church.

St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School

Consisting of two institutions on a historic property, the goal of the master plan and phased project was to define the longrange growth needs that meets the strategic goals of both St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School and Church. Through an inclusive, collaborative process, we worked step-by-step with the institution’s varied stakeholders to determine the client’s future needs. The project began with a facilities needs assessment, then followed with an opportunities and constraints analysis of the client’s properties to determine the ability to fit those strategic needs on their existing site. Planning work included the development of several design options for the purposes of cost and budget analysis, as well as creating the materials necessary to aid in fundraising. Part of our scope of work included in this is the complex entitlements process that includes CEQA, San Mateo planning, neighborhood and historic community approvals.



Tahoe Expedition Academy Truckee, California Client:Tahoe Expedition Academy ― Size: 108,125 square feet, 42-acre site ― Completion Date: 2017

The Tahoe Expedition Academy (TEA) master plan and development creates a new 42-acre adventure-based educational campus for an independent pre-K through 12th grade experiential learning school. Founded in 2011, TEA focuses on high-level academics, character building, hands-on exploration and adventure; the new campus creates a complementary environment for this unconventional educational approach. The new campus includes over 108,125 square feet of building area as well as outdoor activity and learning spaces for an enrollment of 350 students. The campus includes five academic buildings; support buildings including administration, shops, a field house, multi-use field and outdoor commons; indoor theater; and boarding for 40 students and three faculty housing units.


New 42-acre school campus for adventurebased, experiential learning.



Tahoe Expedition Academy

Given the exceptional nature of the school, the design process was unlike any other. As TEA positions itself to become a national leader in experimental pedagogical strategy, it aims to support a wide range of learning modalities far beyond the conventional such as listening to a lecture or reading a book independently. Flexibility is key. Interior walls are minimized and openness allows the school to evolve over time, particularly in the older grades which bring less prescriptive requirements. Program elements are housed in smaller structures, rather than one monolithic facility, more appropriate to the character of Truckee. Students will maintain a constant connection to the outdoors throughout the day. Buildings and roadways weave carefully into the landscape to minimize grading and tree removal—and to retain the essential character of the place.

↑ TEA is designed from the ground up to exist harmoniously with the environment, with an extremely ambitious goal of achieving Net Zero Energy status.

UCSF Child Development Center San Francisco, California Client: University of California, San Francisco Size: 9,000 square feet Completion Date: 2010


Master plan and renovation of an historic Santa Fe railroad depot for a K-8 Montessori school.

UCSF Child Development Center


Located on the southwest side of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Parnassus campus, the new Kirkham Childcare Center accommodates 75-90 children of UCSF employees. The facility’s programmatic and design vision was developed after careful study of numerous day care centers around the Bay Area and incorporates the latest models in child-centered learning environments. Sited on a steep hillside, the building’s entrance is on the uppermost area of the site where level parking and protected parent access to the facility is provided. A welcoming entry court and reception spaces promote a sense of community among staff, students, and parents. Classrooms for the younger children are located on the main level, near the front entry for ease of access, while spaces for the older children are located on the lower level. Through successful collaboration with neighborhood groups, the building is designed with varied residentially-scaled materials appropriate to the neighborhood.

→ Significant to the overall design solution, the project utilizes prefabricated modular unit construction, ultimately reducing the overall construction costs all the while maintaining a contextual design aesthetic, fulfilling the unique programmatic space requirements, and mitigating the complex site conditions..


Our Team—San Francisco

Kami Kinkaid

Peter Pfau

Dwight Long


Have a K-12 school design need?

Anders Carpenter

Helen Schneider

→ San Francisco Friends School San Francisco, CA



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K-12 Education: San Francisco  

K-12 Education: San Francisco