Making Waves Academy (MWA) is a non-profit, tuition-free school serving low-income students in grades 5 through 12 in West Contra Costa County in the California Bay Area. Prior to expanding their campus, MWA had limited capacity to serve their target demographic in their existing facility and, despite conducting almost no advertising or outreach, always had a long waiting list. Frustrated by turning down two-thirds of their applicants each year, they purchased several adjacent properties and engaged Studio Bondy Architecture to expand the school, turning it into a state-of-the-art facility on par with the best Bay Area private schools. With the help of Campus LLC, the Academy’s development consultants, we first developed a campus master plan, then executed the project in a series of phases that minimized disruption to students. We renovated their existing buildings - a mix of repurposed single-story tilt-up buildings and a 2-story stucco building - and added four new buildings, all built with tilt-up concrete construction, articulated by sunshades and bright colors, along with colorful, phenolic panel-clad pop-outs. Through this project, the school facility more than doubled in size: the campus can now accommodate up to 2,000 students.
A key component of our design for the school was centering the classrooms on flexible, open learning spaces. This allowed the school to shift their curriculum to a more collaborative model, which was difficult in the original school buildings that had a traditional double-loaded corridor configuration. The tilt-up concrete and steel column construction system used for the new buildings greatly reduced the number of interior columns and fixed walls, creating maximum flexibility for the present and any future changes to the plan. As well as being flexible, tilt-up helped expedite construction and build the project economically.
Other program features include a parent resource center, restorative justice spaces, a gymnasium, Maker Spaces, music rooms, and a performing arts space. The site includes an artificial turf play yard, a climbing wall, play structures, and shaded outdoor eating areas. All buildings were equipped with photovoltaic panels and energy-efficient lighting.