Winter 2013 – Volume 12 Number 5

Pressman Academy ECC

Pressman Academy ECC

Excitement Beginning to Build

Excitement Beginning to Build

      Nursery schools are designed to be a world of their own. Typically separated from older grades, they are self-contained and follow a specific rhythm and structure. Most are intentionally subdued and inwardly focused; energy levels rise and fall relative to play or snack time.

(Above) The primary play area of the New Rabbi Jacob Pressman Academy Early Childhood Center. Design and rendering by Pica+Sullivan Architects.

      But at the Early Childhood Center of Pressman Academy of Temple Beth Am the ambiance is a little different; and it is not just the seemingly sustained enthusiasm. An ever-present sense of joy and excitement emanates from the classrooms and can be felt throughout the campus.

      A glance through an ECC door reveals an animated wonderland. Rainbow fabrics drape from the ceilings, artwork layers the colored walls and patterned rugs define activity stations. Reptile terrariums, play structures and educational toys add to the visual stimulation. Needless to say there is the constant motion of children: playing in parallel, playing together, and singing, laughing, and crying oftentimes all-of-the-above.

      Very soon this cheerful celebration of learning and life will move to new quarters. On the drawing board are plans for a brand new campus. Proposed to be located west of the existing Temple Beth Am and Pressman Academy Ganzberg Building, the new facility is scheduled for a summer 2014 opening.

“We are constantly informed by the latest research in early childhood development and neuroscience, and our program is ever-evolving to ensure a cutting edge, dynamic approach to experiential learning.”

      Southern California-based Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd. designed the new ECC to accommodate a 175-student enrollment and provide spacious and flexible rooms to facilitate the curriculum and mission.

      The two-story school will house 10 classrooms, ECC offices, a kitchen, laundry room and ample storage all situated on top of a new 27-car subterranean garage. Designed to complement the surrounding residential context, the new structure will feature pitched roofs, smooth exterior plaster, and walls of sand colored Jerusalem stone. A wood clad fencing interspersed with stucco and vine-covered sections will create separation from the adjoining residential street.

      The shape and position of the new building will create two distinct play areas on the site. The 2-year old and Parent and Me classrooms will directly adjoin a front zone furnished with age appropriate play equipment, a sand box, a secured crawling deck, picnic tables, planting pots and gardens.


“We strive to create an environment where children are fully immersed in an education that is custom tailored to their precise individual and developmental needs,”

Notes Pressman Academy Early Childhood Director Angie Bass

A Dynamic Approach to Experiential Learning

A Dynamic Approach to Experiential Learning

      The 3- and 4-year old classrooms will open onto a primary play zone that features a large sand box, picnic tables, a climb and slide play structure with artificial turf fall zone, and numerous gardens for planting. Trellises, shade structures, concrete benches and seating walls, mounded landscape areas, garden paths, and a bridge and shallow pond have been skillfully integrated into the exterior design by noted Los Angeles-based landscape architect Carter, Romanek, Inc.

      The interior design of the spacious classrooms include lofty ceilings, an entire wall of bright colored fabric-wrapped tack board and builtin casework with storage, counter space and cubbies. Each teaching space will have large windows on at least two sides, direct/indirect light fixtures and individual control of the heating and air conditioning.

      The open floor plan accommodates activity space, play areas, and quiet zones for classes ranging in size from 16 to 18 students. The built-in flexibility allows each teacher to define their environment to best promote social skills, independent thinking and experiential learning.

      The existing queue line and campus parking shortfall will be addressed by the new ECC project. The plan calls for the proposed subterranean garage to connect with one under the existing school building. The combined car aisle length within both will extend the queue by 20 vehicles.

      This, along with a recently enacted ride-share program will alleviate the afternoon line-up that affects adjoining streets. Aside from the new 27 parking spaces, the removal of temporary trailers on the existing on-grade lot will free up space for 12 additional stalls. Together these spaces will substantially increase on-campus parking.

      The new Early Childhood Center will incorporate a number of sustainable design features. These include natural light in all rooms, dual-glazing for all windows (to reduce heat gain and mute sound transmission), significant acoustic treatment within the classrooms, use of both locally sourced and recycled material in the building construction, and state-of-the-art high efficiency HVAC systems with economizers. Additional “green design” features include drought tolerant landscaping and an elaborate infiltration gallery to collect and filter run-off before release into the storm system.

      The project is slated to start construction in Spring 2013 and be ready for occupancy in September 2014. Although contiguous with the existing facilities, the new Early Childhood Center presents an exclusive haven for pre-schoolers. Each day’s arrival will be marked by crossing a bridge and traversing a garden and play zone to reach their spacious and vibrant classrooms. While the new ECC will be a world unto itself, it is certain the sense of joy and excitement will continue to be felt throughout the entire Temple Beth Am campus.

Pica + Sullivan Architects, Ltd. specializes in master planning, architectural design and project management for non-profit schools, religious institutions, and social service organizations. Our approach includes hands-on principals who are involved in the project from inception through completion; flexible and responsive staff who have a long history with the firm; a value-engineering approach to design where the cost-benefit is considered throughout; contextual approach to design where an architecture unique to the context is developed for each client; understanding of the non-profit client as a multi-faceted group of constituents; and most importantly multiple projects with most clients which demonstrates the level of confidence and trust that is placed in Pica + Sullivan Architects.


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Los Angeles, California 90036

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