Lick’s New Building opens space for 21st Century Learning

A rendering of the new Ocean Avenue exterior rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

A rendering of the new Ocean Avenue exterior.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

When this year’s freshman and sophomores walk into Lick as juniors and seniors they will walk into the front entrance of Lick’s transformed new main building. The transformation of 755 Ocean Avenue is scheduled to begin in June of 2017 and be finished in time for class on the first day of school in August 2018.

Each year the Lick community grows; more students apply and the size of the freshman class edges higher; with more new students, new faculty members and additional facilities are needed to accommodate the larger community. Why is the size of the L-W student body growing? The Lick community, rather than turn away amazing families and students, is choosing to expand the size of the student body. The number of students, however, cannot go higher than 550, due to zoning restrictions.

The rebuild of 755 Ocean Avenue meets the needs of Lick’s present and leaves room for its future. The current square footage of 755 Ocean Avenue does not comfortably fit all Lick’s students, faculty members, and staff. The upper and lower hallways of the school are too small; the classrooms and faculty offices not big enough.

The New Building’s foyer — view from the main entrance back towards the Center, Administrative Offices and doors to the terrace to the right image courtesy of EHDD Architecture

The New Building’s foyer — view from the main entrance back towards the Center, Administrative Offices and doors to the terrace to the right.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

Another essential reason to renovate the Ocean Avenue building is that the current structure does not meet California’s seismic codes. The seismic work done during the summer of 2015, tying the roof to the walls, was only a stopgap fix to the building, but now it is time for building a more sustainable structure.

The New Building, the transformed 755 Ocean, also aims to transform Lick’s campus into the ideal 21st Century high school learning environment. The concept for the New Building was inspired by David Kelley, who is the head of Stanford’s d.school. Kelley believes that academic spaces should be messy and that learning should be interactive. He advocates for spacious and flexible work areas. Kelley’s beliefs are also at the heart of Lick Wilmerding’s mission, as Lick was founded as an industrial school and the maker tradition and shops — experiential and design thinking — remain an essential aspect of Lick’s approach to all students’ learning process.

The main features for the new design of the Ocean Avenue building are to rethink Lick’s main entrance, to enlarge classrooms and casual meet areas, and to add a third floor to the building – which will be setback from the original building’s street side facade. In the New Building existing classrooms will be enlarged by up to 50 square feet and ceilings raised will be to increase the overall volume of the rooms — the design will create airy, bright and flexible spaces. To create more spacious hallways, lockers will line only one side of the corridors but will be smaller than the present ones.

To create its New Building, Lick hired the San Francisco architectural firm EHDD, Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis.

The architects have completed preliminary plans – by working closely with Lick’s New Building committee which includes alumni, parents, faculty and staff, and Eric Temple. EHDD’s design, of course, must meet the essential needs and vision of the school, meet all building and design codes, and is constrained by the school’s building budget. The design is still flexible.

 The terrace between the New Building and the Cafe rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

The terrace between the New Building and the Cafe.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

In the current stage of the plans, most of the spaces in the upper and lower hallways are either classrooms, faculty offices, or locker spaces. The renovation of these two hallways will also open up the space and create small niche open areas that will serve many purposes: students and teachers can have meetings, and groups can work on projects. Some of the walls will be giant white boards – vast spaces for design thinking. In keeping with the desire to create more versatile and unclaimable space, some classrooms will have walls that can fold up to create even larger classrooms for whatever purpose is necessary.

The interior of the gym will also be renovated during the construction process. This will allow assemblies and community meetings after 2018 to be held in the gym. To accommodate the needs of assemblies and community meetings, new seating, audio-visual equipment, a screen, and window-coverings will be added.

The New Building will change and empower the experience of future graduating classes. Eric Temple is excited that the redesign will include more classrooms so that the school can accept more students. This will alleviate the stress on admissions, so the community can welcome larger numbers of amazing students and families. An additional 10 to 15 students can be admitted to each class, which will bump up Lick’s size from around 480 to 550. As a school that prides itself on its accessibility to a variety of families, Lick will also be able to offer flexible tuition to 20-25 additional students. Moreover, the increase in size will enhance the experience of students because the school will be able to offer more courses that appeal to the diversity of Lick students’ interests.

Ocean Avenue facing classroom. rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

Ocean Avenue facing classroom.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

In addition to the larger classrooms, the design will include a more welcoming entrance. Currently, the entrance is not inviting particularly for differently physically abled people. As explained by Eric Temple, “We want to make every person feel comfortable to enter through our doors, despite their ability.” As of now, physically differently abled people are immediately faced with two staircases, or a very noisy old lift. The new entrance, at the corner of Howth and Ocean, will be at street level — no stairs — a broad, inviting, bright area.

The foyer will be spacious and will open into the Center for Civic Engagement. The administrative offices will be situated to the right of the foyer. Another important feature of the entrance will be the addition of a gallery space alongside the administrative offices; the gallery will face the street. Here student work will be displayed for all to see as they walk into the campus.

In the past years Lick has added and renovated many new structures on campus, including the library-photo-art-design studio building (SMWM Architects, 1996), the cafeteria music room, terrace, and the technology department’s shop pit (PFAU Long Architects, 2003).

Throughout these changes, with the exception of a seismic retrofit in 1993 and some interior reorganization of the administrative spaces, the Ocean Avenue building has been relatively untouched.

Science labratory classroom. rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

Science laboratory classroom.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

This mid-20th century building, which opened in 1955, was designed by Lick- Wilmerding alum, William Merchant. Shortly after the current design process began, the Lick community discovered that the main building of the school was in fact an historically important example of mid-century modern architecture. The city is requiring the school to maintain 75% of the facade of the Merchant building. The city of San Francisco will allow Lick to meet this 75% if Lick preserves both the gym facade and most of the main facade of the Ocean Avenue structure.

So, who was William Merchant, the Lick- Wilmerding alum who designed Lick’s main building. Merchant worked closely with Bernard Maybeck, a famous early 20th Century California architect. Merchant himself is remembered as a respected San Francisco architect. For the Lick community, Merchant’s building represents the skills and values that students develop at Lick to help them succeed in their professional lives.

One of the defining features of Merchant’s facade is the curtain wall. When Merchant designed the building, he used the best curtain wall technology of his time.

Temporary classrooms in Lick’s repurposed parking lot garden; home of English, World Language, History, BME, B&B and Math classes, 2017-2018 rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

Temporary classrooms in Lick’s repurposed parking lot garden; home of English, World Language, History, BME, B&B and Math classes, 2017-2018.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

EHDD’s plans will respect Merchant’s spirit and carry on Merchant’s tradition of using the best new technology available. They will use the best curtain wall technology of the 21st Century. The rebuild of the first and second storeys and the design of the new third storey will use structurally glazed curtain wall technology; the third floor of the New Building will appear to be floating above the existing structure so as not to obstruct the legacy and historical value of the facade of the first two floors.

Why was EHDD chosen? EHDD is a San Francisco based architecture firm founded in 1946 by Joseph Esherick, a notable figure in the design community. In 1986 EHDD was awarded the American Institute of Architects (AIA) prestigious National Firm of the Year Award. EHDD has designed many buildings in San Francisco and other areas in California. EHDD designs both public and private buildings in both rural and urban environments for a variety of uses and on a variety of scales.

EHDD has experience designing buildings in urban environments such as the City College of San Francisco Chinatown/ North Beach Campus, and One Hawthorne Luxury Condominiums. They also have experience designing buildings for schools and other educational purposes, including the Marin Country Day School campus and Millikan Laboratory and Andrew Science Hall at Pomona College. These projects, among others make EHDD quite qualified to design the New Building.

Moreover, EHDD’s values as a firm align with Lick’s values as an institution. The firm believes that the old Lux motto, “Do common things uncommonly well” demonstrates their aspirations as a firm. In many instances they are constantly finding ways to improve on the small details of a design, such as a staircase that finds a solution that best fits the need of a space, not just a cookie-cutter solution to a problem. Moreover, the firm tries to envision the sustainability of their buildings — both the flexibility of the space, the nature of the building materials, and the energy efficiency. They consider what the design provides in the present, and how it can respond to future needs.. They are very careful with current design and technological trends and implement them in a way that meets the needs of their clients.

Corridor showing lockers on the left and an open niche work space with white board walls on the right image courtesy of EHDD Architecture

Corridor showing lockers on the left and an open niche work space with white board walls on the right.
Rendering courtesy of EHDD Architecture

SiJing Sanchez, the project manager of the New Building, says that “normally it’s difficult to convince our clients that sustainability is the way to go, but with Lick we didn’t need to convince them. They were already concerned about the sustainability of the building.” Lick, being a distinguished and old school, understands that this New Building must solve their current problems but also the problems of the future, such as being responsive to climate change and other issues. As one of the eco-elements added to Lick’s New Building, the design will use air pumps to pump fresh air from outside into the building. This will keep the main building feeling healthier and more lively. The New Building will be built to Leed Platinum standards. The New Building plans on being Net Zero Positive. The hope is to make Lick’s entire campus Net Zero in future years.

The New Building will be registered for the Living Building Challenge, which, as described by the Living Building website, is “a building certification program, advocacy tool, and philosophy that defines the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today and acts to rapidly diminish the gap between current limits and the end game positive solutions we seek.” The Challenge is comprised of seven performance categories called Petals: Place, Water Energy, Health & Happiness, Materials, Equity and Beauty.” This is an innovative and new way to classify the eco-friendliness of a building. And Lick hopes to receive three Petals, particularly the energy Petal, for their New Building.

Students in front of 755 Ocean Avenue in 1963. At the time, Lick-Wilmerding was a boys’ school. photo courtesy of Goranka Poljak-Hoy

Students in front of 755 Ocean Avenue in 1963. At the time,
Lick-Wilmerding was a boys’ school.
Photo courtesy of Goranka Poljak-Hoy

Today’s Living Building Challenge mirrors EHDD’s historical ethos. For example, in 1964 Joseph Esherick was one of the founding architects of the Sea Ranch. The founders of this utopian development on a craggy section of Sonoma coastline sought to unite the emerging field of ecology with an inventive architecture – houses would be airy, simple structures with sloping shed roofs and vertical board siding. Some of the early experimental houses had sod roofs. The buildings would harmonize with and sit lightly on the land.

Lick’s stunning airy, light-filled New Building, built of sustainable, eco-friendly and durable materials, will help transition Lick Wilmerding into the 21st century. The New Building will transcend the standards of high school campus, even in San Francisco; however, the most impressive aspect of the New Building is its tribute to Lick Wilmerding’s history in San Francisco. The New Building will solve many of the current issues that the school faces, leaving growing room so that the school can respond to future needs.

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About Zeli Grey

Zeli, a junior at Lick, is a co-editor of the Hyphen's sports section. She is also a reporter for the Paper Tiger and she works on a variety of articles. Ever since she was little she enjoyed creating characters and writing short stories. When she was in fourth grade she attended to a journalism class and she learned a lot about the different types of journalism. This is Zeli's first year working for both the hyphen and the paper tiger, however she is really excited to start writing!

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