Diamond Ranch High School

May 02, 2001 /

Pomona, California, USA

The Diamond Ranch High School is situated on a steeply sloped seventy-two acre site - considered "unbuildable" and donated to Pomona Unified School District. Slopes vary from 1:1 to 5:1 with a total relief across the site of 380 feet. A natural landscape of Riparian Oaks and native grasses surround the site.

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Photo courtesy Morphosis

The total building size is 150,000 s.f., including 50 classrooms, a gymnasium, cafeteria, administration and parking for 770 automobiles.

Fusing landscape and building into a single organic unity, Diamond Ranch High School concerns building as topography, with a majority of the architectural program contained within the reshaped site.

morphosis-diamond-ranch (2).jpg
Photo courtesy Morphosis

The proposal focuses on three major areas; (1) the complex's conceptual attitude toward the site, (2) social organization, and (3) educational flexibility. The first is the desire to take advantage of the site's natural beauty by integrating the play fields and buildings into the surrounding hillside. The second goal was to create a dynamic built environment to foster maximum social interaction between students, teachers, administration and the community. Finally, the proposal attempts to facilitate a flexible teaching environment with a solid foundation core curriculum for grades 9 ? 10, and numerous specific program majors for grades 11 - 12 with a capacity for 1200 students.

morphosis-diamond-ranch (3).jpg
Photo courtesy Morphosis

The sloping site provided an opportunity to create a place where architecture and environment continually exchange places. The idea of grading the hillside to accommodate the program gave way rather quickly to a more interesting concept in which the land was shaped in conjunction with the architecture rather than in preparation for it. Minimizing the displacement of earth for budgetary and environmental reasons, the siting of the project took advantage of a natural bowl for the playing field and primary football field, embedding them in the sloped earth at the south of the site to create an economically efficient hillside seating area. The client requested that the 9th and 10th grade classrooms be divided into separate clusters, the educational objective being to divide this portion of the school into six distinct"schools within the school". Thus the school is organized around separate groups of four classrooms each. This arrangement fosters team teaching and creates a more intimate environment, where students are moving between classes in a smaller cluster. Landscaped outdoor teaching areas at each cluster act as courtyards between buildings.

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Photo courtesy Morphosis

From the parking court at the side of the gymnasium, the landscape/building events of the school weave together with a pedestrian street that unites the entire complex, a physical manifestation of the school's sense of community by encouraging student / teacher interaction. One of the major focal points of the scheme is a monumental stairway that allows movement from the main school areas to the roof terrace and football field above, while creating a student amphitheater. The focus here was to integrate and take advantage of the site's topography, creating a dual usage of landscape as structure.

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Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Plan Level 0

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Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Plan Level 1

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Drawing courtesy Morphosis
Plan Level 4

The project was under the State of California Office for Public School Construction Guidelines, requiring a low bid award, which necessitated a diligent analysis of all projected building costs during each stage of development. The project involves a client hired construction manager and the separation of the bid package into 24 separate multiple-prime contractor bids. Construction is facilitated through a 'team approach' of client, architect and construction manager, with design team on-site supervision to guarantee quality control. Materials selected, Corrugated metal, Steel, Concrete, are both low maintenance, economic and durable, with a focus on vandal -proof fixtures and surfaces.

The School was completed in January 2000.

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Photo: Kirsten Kiser
The Morphosis office

Facts about Diamond Ranch High School

Morphosis was founded to develop an architecture that would eschew the normal bounds of traditional forms and materials and surpass the limiting dualism of modern and postmodern. Growing steadily, the firm is currently comprised of 26 architects and designers directed by Thom Mayne. Their objective is to develop a critical practice where creative output engages the contemporary discourse of the discipline through both architectural design and writing.

A significant percentage of Morphosis' work has been commissioned through international design competitions including the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Center in Austria, The University of Toronto Graduate Student Housing in Canada, and the Diamond Ranch High School in California.

They have recently won a competition for a pedestrian bridge which will span the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles and serve as both a connecting device and a landmark sign for the city. Their work encompasses a wide range of project types including private sector work such as the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank Carinthia and the Cedars-Sinai Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. In addition, they have recently been commissioned for several significant public sector projects including a Federal Courthouse in Eugene, Oregon, the G.S.A. Headquarters building in San Francisco, the NOAA Satellite Control Center in Washington D.C., and several University Buildings in the U.S. and abroad.

Over the past 25 years, Morphosis has been the recipient of 20 Progressive Architecture Awards, 36 AIA Awards and numerous other design recognitions. Their firm has been the subject of various group and solo exhibitions around the world, most notably at the Contemporary Art Center in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Walker Arts Institute in Minneapolis, and a major retrospective at the Netherlands Architectural Institute (NAI) in 1999. In addition to these solo exhibitions, Morphosis has been included in prestigious group exhibitions in Tokyo, London, Vienna, Buenos Aires, and at the Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art, as part of the "End of the Century: 100 Years of Architecture" exhibit.

Drawings, furniture, and models produced by Morphosis are included in the permanent collections of such institutions as the MOMA, NYC, MOMA San Francisco, the MAK Vienna, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the FRAC, France. The work produced by Morphosis is published extensively in prominent architectural publications worldwide. They have been the subject of 18 monographs, including three by Rizzoli, two by Korean Architect, two by El Croquis (Spain), and one by G.A. Japan.

Thom Mayne received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern California in 1968 where he met five other students and educators with whom he would later join to create the Southern California Institute of Architecture, or SCI-Arc. In 1978 he received his Masters Degree from Harvard University. His commitment to the education of young design talent has not wavered over the past 30 years. He currently holds a faculty position at UCLA and has held visiting professorships at such institutions as Columbia University, Harvard, Yale, Cornell, The Berlage Institute (Netherlands), and The Bartlett School (London). Distinguished honors include the Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome (1987), the Alumni of the Year Award from USC (1996), Member Elect from the American Academy of Arts & Letters (1992) and the 2000 American Institute of Architects/ Los Angeles Gold Medal.

Last updated: December 19, 2013

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