Page D1.1 . 25 July 2001                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    Two Compact Urban Schools

    by Katharine Logan

    A school on top of a parking garage might not initially sound appealing. A parking garage would be a bleak, unlovely place, an aesthetic bludgeon to hungry young minds. But that's where design comes in.

    The Gonzalo and Felicitias Mendez Fundamental Intermediate School in Santa Ana, California, is tucked behind a shopping mall, on top of a parking garage.

    The Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (ECIAD) in Vancouver, British Columbia, occupies a similar site in a mixed-use redevelopment of an industrial waterfront.

    Shoe-horned into dense urban contexts, each of these two schools turn the liabilities of its site into an asset. At the same time, they each respond to an increasingly critical challenge: combining people, cars, and buildings in less space.

    Before Senator Leroy Green introduced California's Space-Saver Program, siting a new California school in an urban neighborhood typically entailed a costly and destructive process of acquiring and condemning existing housing. Even if less expensive, less controversial land was available for infill, the higher cost of building on a more complex site prevented most schools from trying.

    As a result of the Space-Saver Program, however, school districts may now apply savings on land acquisition to the costs of construction. On this new, level playing field, a multistory school on an urban infill site can compete in cost with a typical single-story school on "new" land. The benefits of neighborhood preservation and reduced sprawl become suddenly more achievable.



    ArchWeek Photo

    Located on a bargain-priced piece of joint-use land, the Mendez School is the first to be built under California's Space-Saver Program.
    Photo: Adrian Velicescu

    ArchWeek Photo

    Extensive decks define a new ground plane that removes the parking garage from the students' experience of their school.
    Photo: Adrian Velicescu


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