Dena New Primary Center
A bold design encourages a neighborhood to take pride in itself
This Primary Center in East Los Angeles features a progressive design that makes use of varied materials including plaster, glass and galvanized metal, natural daylighting, and playful colors to generate an educationally stimulating, child-friendly environment. The project implemented an educational program to break up large, impersonal schools into settings that are manageable for teachers and students, a concept referred to as “Small Learning Communities.” An equally important goal involved creating an object of renewed neighborhood pride in the inner city, as the school is the first in the area in 50 years.
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The 25,500 SF K-2 Primary Center includes two kindergartens, eight classrooms for 250 students, an administration complex, a library, a multipurpose room, and outdoor play/assembly areas. It is located on a site surrounded by industrial zones, the Los Angeles River, railway tracks, and a residential neighborhood that includes public housing. The architects’ design thus addressed the project’s cultural and urban context, which also included the effects of two local gangs’ rivalry in the neighborhood. A key feature is the organization of the campus buildings inward towards a central elliptical courtyard, which provides a safe, sheltered play environment as well as a student and community gathering space.
Rachlin Architects, a Culver City-based architectural firm, also used the bold design and color scheme to encourage community members to come together and take pride of ownership in the school. A few months after the school opened, the firm’s societal design intentions have been realized. Gang activity has decreased and neighborhood pride has resurfaced.
Formal name of project: Dena New Primary Center
Location: Los Angeles, California
Gross square footage: 25,5000 sq.ft.
Total construction cost: $8.5 million
Owner: Los Angeles Unified School District
3635 Hayden Avenue
Culver City, CA 90232
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