Christopher High School: Phase 1
Gilroy,  California,  United States

BCA Architects
Known as the ''Garlic Capital of the World,” the City of Gilroy is rapidly transforming from its agrarian roots towards a technological future. When the one high school in town grew over capacity, the School Board took the initiative to build a second high school, one that is as closely aligned to near-by Silicon Valley as to the town’s rural past. Phase l of the new 1,800-student school, for 900 students, opened Fall 2009. The voters showed their support by passing two Bond Measures.

Planning Process/Community Joint Use: The layout and design grew from collaborations with a “User Group” committee, comprised of staff from the existing high school, and a “Steering Committee”, encompassing a diverse group of community members, including the Chief of Police, and a Director from the City’s Parks and Recreation Department. As district architect, and facilitator of the Steering Committee, the architect approached the Parks and Recreation Director and the town about joint use. The practice gym (funding: District 25%, City 25%, State 50%) will be available after hours for community use. In addition, Gilroy is providing $4.3 million for joint use of an aquatic center (Phase II). The community can also use the library, administration area, and (Phase II) theater. All joint-use spaces are designed with separate secure after-hours entrances.

Learning Environment: Promoting collaboration within major disciplines, the Arts, Sciences and the Humanities are located in their own wings. The Arts programming has been re-envisioned to integrate academics with technical education. The architect, working closely with the teachers, was successful in securing $6 million in innovative Career Technical Education grants to integrate Digital, Media Arts and Performing Arts with hands-on instruction. The design supports the programming by co-locating classrooms, ceramic studio, wood and metal shops, and other arts offerings in one Arts wing. Swing-up garage doors allow creation of, for example, stage scenery for the theater. Students have been found to be more motivated with such real-world applications, resulting in lower dropout rates and higher wages for graduates.

Design: Sweeping natural view corridors of the countryside and foothills were protected by creating a two-story campus that occupies a compact area, allowing the inclusion of a large greenbelt on site. The resulting higher density of built space creates a more urban and intimate setting around a central quadrangle, the social hub of the campus. A fan shaped organizational layout allows for spacious outdoor learning environments, better supervision for administrators, and the greatest level of security for the students and staff. High quality materials, chosen for durability, longevity, and low-maintenance, as well as classical design elements such as natural stone and ornate entry facades, are used to reflect a collegiate and timeless architecture reminiscent of the original Gilroy High School, built in 1912 in the Classic Revival style, whose beloved iconic memory remains strong in the community.

Security: The Police Chief made many security suggestions to help prevent accidents and crime through appropriate design. Three new traffic lights signalize all roads coming into the school; a carefully designed drop-off/pick-up for cars, busses and pedestrians addresses the many traffic issues existing at the old high school. The open quad is fenced between buildings, and interior corridors reduce multiple points of building entry. An influx of new residents and increased traffic, safety and security continue to be an important issue for the community.

Character: The architect infused character into the school by researching and developing a mascot with 6th graders (now the first class). The Cougar and its identifying colors were used as a decorative element in the gym, at the main entrance and paw prints appear in the ornate entry facades. Historic quotes also enliven the school and highlight the traditions and values of the past. As for the school’s own history, Gilroy’s largest garlic grower, Christopher Ranch, donated land and funding. The school not only carries his name but includes a decorative garlic clove sculpted right into the entry lintels.
Sustainability Features:

The 235,000 square foot green school design optimizes natural daylight through ample glazing and light shelves, allows natural ventilation, and has energy efficient mechanical systems, drought-tolerant landscaping, and a compact site plan. The pre-cast concrete panel exterior skin was fabricated by a local concrete plant saving on expensive transpo ...
BCA Architects
BCA Architects partners with clients in a mission to achieve excellence in design. Since 1989, BCA strives to strengthen communities through projects built whether it’s to design, to help define partnerships, to locate financing, to save energy or to present alternate delivery methods. BCA goes above and beyond the task at hand to ensure their clients succeed. For more information, visit:

BCA has received numerous design awards and among them are:

2011 ABC San Diego : Award of Excellence: Chula Vista High School

2011 Green Project of the Year: BCA Headquarters

2011 CASH / AIACC : Award of Excellence : Christopher High School

2010 CCFC : Award of Excellence : Southwestern College

2009 Architect of the Year Award : Paul Bunton, AIA

2008 : American School and UniversityDesign Excellence :
Aptos High School

2007 : Learning by Design
Architectural Recognition : Christopher High School

2006 : American School and University Outstanding Interior
Country: United States
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