Spring Break 2003

Today's School

Reprinted with Permission. From the Sept.-Oct. 2002 Issue of Today's School: Shared Leadership in Education. © Peter Li Education Group

Conserving Energy

By V. Joseph Pica, Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd.

(Above) Large windows reduce the need for artificial light at Westridge School art classrooms. Photograph by Randall Michelson.

I find myself frequently cruising through the house-flipping-off the light switches, turning down the heat and alternately shutting the back door or the refrigerator door to conserve energy costs. And often my kids hear me ask in a voice suspiciously reminiscent of my father, “Hey, do you think we own an electric company?”

The problem is apparently universal and evidently, spans generations. No one seems to realize the financial costs of our dwindling energy resources until they begin to pay the monthly bills.

The home front is but a small skirmish in the war between energy usage and costs. A full-scale battle, however, is being waged in a place where pre-adolescents and adolescents congregate, en masse, on a daily basis – the local school. In these places of education, massive overhead light fixtures continuously illuminate desktops between classes and during periods when rooms are empty.

The hidden cost of this unnecessary energy usage takes its toll on slim budgets, diverting needed money from books, educational tools and teacher salaries. School administrators are taxed to find a solution to the problem. And unleashing an army of janitors to turn off lights on a catch-as-catch-can basis is not a practical solution.

At Santa Monica (CA) High School the facilities personnel have discovered a partial answer in the world of technology – wiring the lights to motion sensors. In a classroom full of wiggling students, the lights continuously burn. After five minutes of quiet, darkness descends.

Unfortunately, life in the classroom doesn’t always stop when the students leave. Oftentimes, a teacher’s office is a desk in the classroom. Quietly reading reports and grading papers doesn’t provide sufficient “motion” to sustain the illumination. Hence, teachers are forced to periodically flail arms or, in a burst of exasperation, throw crumbled papers at the ceiling.

There are solutions to this unemotional technology that cannot differentiate between a classroom empty of students and a classroom empty of everyone. Installation of an override timer that requires an input code could keep lights burning for after-class activities by the teachers.

Of course there is the costly dilemma of lighting a 1,000 sq.-ft. room when only 100 sq.-ft. are occupied. Having a single bank of lights wired to an override switch could solve this. Another solution, particularly in a school undergoing new design and construction, is to provide offices for teachers. In this scenario, there are the added benefits of privacy, security and a more flexible use of the available classrooms.

Thoughtful planning and a tempered use of technology can greatly assist in conserving energy without impinging on the efforts necessary to support our educational programs. As for the home front, I seem doomed to reminding everyone continually to switch off lights and close doors. And I stopped cruising by the hall mirror. It seems that every time I look in it, my father is staring back.

Parish Convent Converted To New Spirituality Center

(Above) View of the new Chapel at the St. Monica Spirituality Center by Pica & Sullivan Architects, Ltd. Art glass window by Gordon Huether. Photograph by Randall Michelson

St. Monica Roman Catholic Church in Santa Monica, California recently celebrated the opening of their new Spirituality Center. The building, designed by Pica & Sullivan Architects, Ltd., will be a center for spiritual prayer and contemplative activities for the St. Monica Parish Community. The 8,000 square-ft. building includes a chapel, several small group prayer rooms, a dining area, kitchen and library.

The Spirituality Center, located on the north side of the St. Monica campus, was originally designed as a residence for the Brothers of St. Patrick, a religious order that taught at the parish high school. After the Brothers withdrew in 1975, the building functioned as the parish convent. Renovation and reconstruction of the building for use as a Spirituality Center began in Fall 2001.

The newly re-constructed building includes a renovated chapel, which can accommodate small and large groups. The chapel was designed for retreats, faith sharing and prayer services. Existing parish programs such as Vespers, Adult Education’s Christian Meditation series and the popular Catholicism 101 series will also be relocated to this venue.

The chapel design includes a 4-foot by 14-foot art glass window by Napa Valley, CA-based artist Gordon Huether. The art glass piece is entitled “Sunrise.” Huether’s work has appeared in many public settings, from universities, government buildings and community centers to museums, private homes, corporate offices and centers of worship. He has received numerous public art awards including the prestigious American Institute of Architects IFRAA Award for Religious Art in 1994.

The new Spirituality Center also houses the St. Monica Religious Education offices. Religious Education directs eight different programs geared to preschool-age children through young teens. Each year 650 children and 300 volunteers participate in the various Religious Education activities.

The offices are located on the ground floor of the new Spirituality Center and include a conference room for catechist training and meetings along with a workspace and much-needed storage.

The St. Monica Youth Ministry offices and Youth Center are located on the second floor of the Spirituality Center building. The Youth Center is to be open during weekday afternoons to give teens the opportunity to drop-in and gather with peers in a supportive environment.

Evening and weekend activities include a weekly youth night, confirmation classes, youth liturgies and youth retreats. The Youth Center includes a separate technology room with computers and printers available for homework activities.

Torrance, CA-based West Cal Construction was the general contractor for the new Spirituality Center. The building was made possible by the generosity of the parishioners of St. Monica who have supported and encouraged the growth of the church and school community and the flourishing of the pastoral ministries.

New Chadwick Middle School Rises From The Ashes

(Above) The new Chadwick Middle School complex by Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd. Photographs by Randall Michelson.

Chadwick School in Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA will soon be removing the ad hoc cluster of modular classroom buildings that has occupied one of their campus parking lots for the last 31⁄2 years. The modular encampment sprang up suddenly in March 1999, the result of an early morning electrical fire that destroyed the nearby Wallace Middle School classroom building.

Unfortunately, the school was not allowed to start construction on a replacement facility until a new Conditional Use Permit (CUP) was approved. The temporary modular encampment seemed to take on an air of permanence as the approval process became bogged down by neighborhood opposition. In Fall 2001 entitlement approval was finally obtained and construction of the new Middle School began in January 2002.

The new 18,000 square-foot Chadwick Middle School designed by Pica & Sullivan Architects, Ltd. is in the final weeks of construction, with completion expected in Spring 2003. The general contractor is Torrance, CA-based Del Amo Construction Inc. The new building is situated adjacent to the existing Quinlin Middle School Science Lab. The positioning of the two structures creates an enclosed exterior plaza space, anticipated to be the focus of the student’s between-class activities.

The new building has twelve classrooms including a ceramics studio, two art classrooms (painting and drawing), a music practice room, eight humanities

classrooms and faculty offices. Student lockers are to be located on all of the levels. A new single story, open-air structure is also being constructed at the perimeter corner of the exterior plaza. It will contain a variety of electric and gas-fired kilns for use by the Middle School ceramics program.

The new Middle School building is situated on a severely sloped site. The building presents a two-story profile to the main campus and a three-story profile to the north, facing the new exterior plaza. Access to all of the classrooms is via exterior balconies on the plaza side of the building. 

The greatest challenge in designing the new building was to create a sense of scale. A three-story façade fronting an exterior plaza would be a daunting sight to middle school-age students. The design solution by Pica & Sullivan Architects was a tiered structure with projecting exterior balconies that also provided classroom access. The roofline on the plaza side was fashioned to express a lower overall height while the two-story side sports a peaked-roof reminiscent of the adjacent campus buildings.

As the new Chadwick Middle School nears completion there is a sense of excitement emanating from the adjacent modular building colony. The new Middle School complex will provide much-needed state-of-the- art classrooms as well as creating a sense of community for the Chadwick students and teachers.

School On Wheels – A Gift From AT&T Broadband

“The downtown Learning Center is a wonderful opportunity to share our expertise. We intend to do our best to make the center a warm, friendly and childcentered environment that is functional, durable and fun. Simply what every student deserves.”

says Maureen Sullivan, principal of the Pica & Sullivan Architects, Ltd.

Continuing their remarkable commitment to the needs of L.A.’s sprawling community, AT&T Broadband has made a generous grant to School on Wheels, an organization dedicated to the education of homeless children. Their $15,000 contribution will be used to convert School on Wheels’ downtown offices into a functional and uplifting environment for the education of the children living in nearby shelters. “In providing the funding for the furnishings, books and computers we are hoping to inspire young minds to succeed in a challenging and competitive world,” says Patti Rockenwagner, the executive director, corporate communication for the southern California business arm of AT&T Broadband.

“We envision our downtown space to be a warm, welcoming resource for the children of homeless families, where School on Wheels tutors can help them with their schoolwork, and where we can give them assistance getting enrolled in public schools,” adds Peter Lorber, Director of Operations of School on Wheels. “It will be a place where we can offer them school supplies, bookpacks, books and even school uniforms and bus tokens if necessary.”

The Learning Room project grew out of an idea that the children and the School on Wheels tutors would benefit from a dedicated place in the shelters that would provide a secure and learning friendly environment. To date, the Learning Room Project has opened nine classrooms, all designed pro bono by leading architecture and design

firms. The classrooms are different sizes and shapes, but each maintain the standard of proper furnishings, workable computers, educational software and libraries based on the curricula of the Los Angeles’ Unified School District.

Pica & Sullivan Architects, Ltd. have donated their time to assist School on Wheels to realize the downtown Learning Room project. Gary Raff of product manufacturer Lees Carpets, Jon Rosen of lighting representative firm SCI, Inc., Steve Moore of Cooper Lighting, Bill Lawson of West Cal Construction, Inc. and Mark Shaffer of furniture dealer Purchase Planners, Inc. have also committed to providing services and products gratis or at reduced cost.

The new downtown facility, scheduled to be finished in Spring 2003, will serve several capacities. According to Maureen Sullivan, principal of the Pica & Sullivan architectural firm noted for their extensive experience in education architecture, “This project is a bit different from the other Learning Rooms completed to date. In addition to the tutorial area, there will be offices for the staff of School on Wheels, reception visible from the storefront and lots of storage.”

“The downtown Learning Center is a wonderful opportunity to share our expertise. We intend to do our best to make the center a warm, friendly and childcentered environment that is functional, durable and fun. Simply what every student deserves.”

Pica & Sullivan Architects Client List

The Buckley School, Chadwick School, Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, First African Methodist Episcopal Church, Girls and Boys Town, Linfield Christian School, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks, Mayfield Senior School, Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am, Saint Lawrence of Brindisi Catholic Church, Saint Monica Catholic Church and Schools, Westridge School for Girls, Windward School