Guajome Park Academy Charter School

Vista, California

A “theme park for the mind.” An innovative concept requiring an innovative response. Twelve years went into developing this unusual charter school. The facility supports a project-based curriculum that lets students in grades 6 to 12 study independently with minimal guidance from teachers.

The resulting design is an excellent example of the “small middle-high ADDITIONAL INFORMATIONCAPACITY1,475COST PER SQ FT$245.00FEATURED IN2006 Architectural PortfolioSUB CATEGORYSpecialized concept.” Similar to today’s work environment, the reconfigurable, technology-rich campus is enhanced with science labs, video seminar rooms, group breakout rooms and other key support spaces.

Four buildings comprise the campus: the Fitness and Arts Center, a student support facility, and the remaining two buildings that house three learning centers.

Each of the 16,000-square-foot learning centers accommodates 300 students and 12 teachers. Radiating from a central commons is an amphitheater, outdoor dining area, pedestrian plaza, two side activity streets and two outdoor classrooms.

The campus is separated by 14 feet of elevation. On a 16-acre hillside, there is a 60-foot north-to-south shift in elevation. Three of the four buildings access the upper site via bridges from the second level. Two exterior staircases and elevators access the commons, and a prominent curved ramp serves as a gateway into the campus.

The crowning jewel is the 40,000-square-foot Fitness and Arts Center, which allows students to flex their creative muscles through drama, music and art classes, as well as a state-of-the-art video studio. Designed to be shared with the community, the center is equipped with a control room, stage, prefunction area, juice bar and kitchen. After school hours, it is a student-operated health club and available for special events. Parking is shared on weekends with a neighboring museum.

With its unique curriculum, low student-to-teacher ratios, and a campus filled with integrated technology, this charter school gives students a comprehensive education far exceeding the offerings of a traditional classroom environment.