Projects   Building Types Study - Schools, K–12
----- Advertising -----
----- Advertising -----
Sweets, Search Building Products

Bentley Upper School Gymnasium
Lafayette, Calif.
Kava Massih Architects

The architects carve an expansive school project out of a challenging site

© Ethan Kaplan

For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

By 1996, the Bentley School, a private school based in Oakland, had outgrown its existing campus. Upon purchasing an 11.6 acre surplus school site in neighboring Lafayette, the institution enlisted Kava Massih Architects to work on a master plan for a new high school to expand its 120-student capacity to 450 and accommodate more diverse functions.

Bounded on one long side by a noisy commuter corridor to San Francisco, the site counts the view of the surrounding hillside as a positive feature, one enhanced by a fifty-foot fall along the property line. The existing buildings lie at the center of the site with an aged playing field to the east and recently constructed tennis courts to the west.

The architects plan calls for an ultimate buildout of seven structures, including a student center, library, and performing arts hall. The creation of a series of buildings with distinct functions allows the campus complex to buffer noise from the freeway, take advantage of the long, narrow site, and leave more usable space at its center. The first phase of construction, now complete, includes a gymnasium, a new classroom building, and a student center.

The gym sits adjacent to the existing play field, with a raised floor level that creates a natural seating berm at the field’s edge. In order to mitigate the monolithic quality of most gyms, the architects use a continuous clerestory window to support a cantilevered metal roof shell, floating above the rest of the building. In certain areas, glass extends to the gym floor to further break down the mass, while wood benches and trim add warmth. The classroom building makes use of similar materials—metal, plaster, glass, and wood—as well as an extensive array of site improvements that create a new central courtyard space. Finally, the student center takes a flexible approach to program and plan, providing a gathering spot for lunch, a space to hold campus meetings, and an interim venue for the performing arts.

Formal name of Project:
Bentley Upper School Gymnasium

Lafayette, Calif.

Bentley Upper School
1000 Upper Happy Valley Road
Lafayette, CA
t. 925.283.2101
contact: Rick Fitzgerald, Headmaster

Owner's Representative:
The Ashton Company
111 Park Place
Pt. Richmond, CA 94801
t. 510.231.6130
Rick Dishnica / Ivan Glover

Kava Massih Architects
2830 Ninth Street
Berkeley, CA 94710
t. 510.644.1920


----- Advertising -----