When design work began for Golestan School’s new campus at a vacant and opaque parochial school built in 1954, we had no idea of the pandemic that would come.
It was clear that the original building was well-sited to improve the building’s access to the outdoors and could be adapted to increase passive daylighting & natural ventilation strategies for the classrooms along the double-loaded east/west clerestory corridor.
From this, we added large sliding doors to new outdoor classrooms, replaced covered windows with insulated low-e glass, removed walls to widen the corridors onto a new teaching kitchen and admin wing, added all new low-VOC materials & coatings, and converted the playground to a natural & edible schoolyard – all in service of the school’s pedagogy for a biophilic and multi‐sensory learning environment.
The architectural transformation and the sense of community that it fostered also enabled the school to face COVID with extraordinary expediency and resilience.
When Shelter-in-Place restrictions were lifted and health department protocols were released, it was clear that the school had been future-proofed for the pandemic: new circulation routes onto/off campus and in/out of classrooms accommodate physical distancing, new outdoor classrooms and well-ventilated interior environments promote stable cohorts, and increased hygiene awareness from the teaching kitchen to new touch-less plumbing fixtures enabled Golestan to become the first and only east bay elementary school in the area to receive a waiver for in- person learning in the fall.
While COVID has exposed everyone to the precarious dangers of our biological lives, the Golestan campus has proven itself a resilient refuge where the natural world, woven into its spaces and curriculum, make up the very fibers that kept this community intact..