With the design for the Animo Film and Theatre Arts Charter High School, Green Dot Public Schools has charged Studio Shift with the task of seamlessly integrating a modern teaching model with progressive sustainable ideology on a site located at the intersection of a major urban corridor and a diverse residential neighborhood.

The Animo school has freed itself of the formal teaching model characteristically found in public high schools across the country. They have instead implemented a model that advocates an intensely participatory pedagogy, allowing students to break free from classroom walls more often than not. In an effort to allow this ideology to guide the design, we have figuratively turned the classrooms inside-out. This perceptual reversal demonstrates the notion that a useful education must not be gained primarily from within the confines of school walls, but rather, is made possible by the confluence of a teacher's inspiration and the experience of the outside world. Our design proposes that the classroom becomes a tertiary space, while an interconnected exterior and large central space take on the primary role as place of learning.

Through its reconfiguring, the central space becomes an enclave of small group discussion, film projections, dramatic performances and creative invention. A mezzanine above houses a transparent conference room and administrative area, purposefully set in plain view for all the students to see, with complete transparency between the realm of the teacher and the student being a primary goal.

The design is also intended to act as a didactic and pedagogic tool to spur critical thinking by students and community alike. This is accomplished, in part, through the seamless implementation of sustainable methodology. Through an intense study, we developed strategies and systems working towards a carbon-neutral goal. Sustainable aspects of the design include the reuse of an existing building shell with the addition of day-lighting systems, solar generated electricity and water heating, natural and low level ventilation, the use of recycled materials, rain water reuse, pervious landscape paving, native drought-resistant plantings (both interior and exterior), wind generated energy, thermal mass for cooling and heating, its inclusion into the community and its use by the surrounding neighborhood.

So, why expend extra money and effort on buildings of this nature?

Studies have shown that sustainable elements such as day-lighting can increase the average progress rate of students by 25%. In the case of the Animo school, the added cost of implementation comes to only $284 per student over just ten years. This alone should answer any questions of worth. It is simply common sense.

Project Team: Mario Cipresso, Chris Warren

Consultants: Arup Los Angeles (mep/sustainability), Davis Langdon (cost)