Silicon Valley Welcomes New Elementary School

By Eric Althoff

FOSTER CITY, Calif.—The San Mateo-Foster City School District (SMFCSD) recently welcomed to its family of learning centers the new Beach Park Elementary School in the Silicon Valley community of Foster City, located in the West Bay roughly halfway between San Jose and San Francisco.

HMC Architects, which operates out of an office in Oakland, worked with fellow Bay Area firm C. Overaa & Co., the project’s general contractor, based in Richmond. Representatives of both firms and of SMFCSD were on hand for a recent ribbon-cutting to inaugurate the newest school.

Beach Park Elementary School, designed for a complement of 420 students, was funded by the Measure X bond measure, which was successfully passed by voters in 2016. The measure set aside $148 million to address ongoing overcrowding throughout both Foster City and San Mateo.

SMFCSD wanted the best possible learning environment. Accordingly, the school contains “classroom clusters” that utilize both indoor and outdoor space in a shared learning area. Furthermore, the school features learning “nooks,” group instruction rooms, and a library and media center whose design allows for flexibility for various uses. In addition, “flexible” furniture, meant to assist in learning, was installed.

Another multipurpose building at the school has been designed for various uses including meal preparation and serving, outreach to the surrounding community, as well as a dedicated gathering space for public performances.

Throughout the school, the color palette utilizes green for positivity, blue for peacefulness and terracotta tones that symbolize creativity.

Marko Blagojevic, managing principal of HMC’s San Jose studio, said that the east-west orientation of the site, as well as less-than-optimal soil beneath the jobsite, were challenges that HMC and C. Overaa & Co. had to overcome as Beach Park Elementary took shape.

“To address this, the design team considered different design strategies and performed daylighting simulations in order to avoid expensive mat slab and/or deep foundations, minimize glare and heat load, and optimize natural daylighting inside the regularly occupied spaces,” Blagojevic said in a statement.

Accordingly, HMC’s work utilized interconnected, clerestory windows, limited fenestrations and deep overhangs.

“The school is designed for flexibility and embraces NextGen learning modalities,” Blagojevic commented. “The design team developed classroom clusters, learning nodes and indoor and outdoor collaboration areas in order to heighten indoor-outdoor spatial relationships, flexible learning environments, and shared collaboration spaces. It is incredibly rewarding to see excited students and teachers engage in such a setting and take ownership of their environment.”