Page D1.3. 18 October 2006                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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    LA Color School


    Environment for Learning

    All the classrooms receive an abundance of daylight. Not only does this satisfy a LEED requirement, but it also addresses the importance of natural light in an educational setting.

    "In the 1960s, we [architects] stopped putting windows in classrooms," says Ingrassio. "Studies have shown that the amount of daylight in a class affects test scores and morale. That's why you see a lot more glass on this campus."

    The LAUSD maintenance program is severely understaffed, so materials were chosen for their esthetic quality as well as durability. Painted surfaces were avoided altogether. To cut the cost of mechanical systems repair, the architects required that each classroom have its own system and use off-the-shelf parts. Even the landscaping is minimal, requiring little watering and upkeep.

    There are plans to expand the campus by building an eight-classroom structure in the open grassy area above the play area. While the community will surely benefit from the additional classrooms, the loss of green space will be a detriment to the campus because that will leave only concrete and asphalt.

    This will worsen an outdoor thermal environment already warmed by the new school's many reflective surfaces. The young fruitless pear trees that dot the playground are intended as shade trees, but it will be several years before they offer substantial relief from the intense Southern California sun.

    Romero is unphased. "I have more trees than other schools. And the metal on the buildings is part of the texture of the school. It's modern — it's hip." From the busy intersection just a block away, the brightly colored forms of Dena Primary School rise above the surroundings, like a symbol of the community's future. "I wonder if in 100 years, this building will reflect the era," she says.

    Dena Primary Center is part of a massive construction effort by LAUSD. Motivated by a shortage of seats for a growing student population, the $19.2 billion bond effort is said to be the largest school construction and repair program in U.S. history. When the program is finally completed in 2012, L.A. will have added 150 new schools.

    Allison Milionis is a downtown Los Angeles-based freelance writer covering architecture and design, politics, and other goings-on around L.A.


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    ArchWeek Image

    Courtyard and administration building of the Dena Primary Center, East Los Angeles, by Rachlin Architects.
    Photo: Tom Bonner

    ArchWeek Image

    Playground and lunch shelter.
    Photo: Tom Bonner

    ArchWeek Image

    Passage between multipurpose room (left) and classroom building (right).
    Photo: Tom Bonner

    ArchWeek Image

    Classroom building.
    Photo: Christopher Covey

    ArchWeek Image

    East-side stairwell.
    Photo: Tom Bonner

    ArchWeek Image

    Courtyard stairwell.
    Photo: Tom Bonner


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