Designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects of Pasadena, the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools are on a 24-acre campus that sits on the former site of the famed Ambassador Hotel. It is home to six new pilot schools, delivering innovative K-12 education in a modern, integrated campus environment.
The campus includes a new public park, master planned by Gonzalez Goodale, that will bring much-needed green space to one of Los Angeles’ most dense urban neighborhoods.
According to firm president Armando L. Gonzalez, FAIA, the goal of Gonzalez Goodale was to integrate the school into the community.
We hope that this project will serve as an inspiration not only to the students and teachers that work and learn here, but also as a model of what is possible in terms of creating an institution that will enrich the entire neighborhood.
Gonzalez Goodale designed separate access to many facilities including the library, a theater, two gymnasiums, soccer fields and a 25-meter swimming pool to encourage public use after hours.
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools is unabashedly dedicated to connecting its students with a more communal life, and connecting members of the community to each other… This is a milestone not only for us, but for Los Angeles as well. We’re proud to take part in upholding Robert F. Kennedy’s legacy.
David L. Goodale, AIA, design principal at Gonzalez Goodale Architects
+ Architect’s statement by Gonzalez Goodale Architects
The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools houses 4,200 students in an integrated K-12 of six pilot schools, on a 24-acre site. This site, in the Mid-Wilshire District, was formerly the Myron-Hunt designed Ambassador Hotel, where RFK was assassinated in 1968, following his victory speech in the California Primary.
The project marks a distinct shift in typology: California public schools have primarily been ‘one-off’ designs devoid of urban context. This campus aggressively embraces both urban history and urban fabric. By responding to the grids and axes of the surrounding city – and of the hotel that was once seated in it – the school provides cinematic viewpoints, both outside-in and inside-out, that reward the school’s inhabitants with a sense of urban connection and continuity.
The principal challenge of this project was to synthesize the aspirations of a vast range of stakeholders while still forging a work that retains coherence and integrity. The establishment of broad initial principles and values among the client-planning team – related to urbanism, joint use, urgency of school seats, and the pedagogical combination of both campus integration and campus decentralization – provided a framework around which project leadership could cohere and make sound decisions in the face of single-interest advocacies.
A second – physical – challenge was to overcome the divorce of the site’s original grading from the city street system, and to literally – re-ground the site’s perimeter. Bringing the southerly portion of the site (the K-5 Pilot Schools) down 30’ to the level of 8th Street required a substantial investment in re-grading. Through design, the resultant grade differences within the site became opportunities through which to introduce barrier-less and subtle separations between pilot schools– specifically a series of grand terraces descending from the main quad to the K-5 play area and its multi-purpose performance proscenium.
Similarly, bringing the westerly K-12 schools down to 7th Street, allowed both a reintegration with street life and a deferential stepping down of massing from the site’s high, center-point.
A third challenge, in collaboration with LAUSD’s project managers, was to move the District towards new models of sustainable architecture, including: super high-density site utilization; indoor-outdoor program and spaces; under-floor and displacement ventilation for more healthy air delivery; a central mechanical plant; single-ply high albedo roofing; triple-glazing at exposed street conditions; and rapidly renewable/cork, rubber, and linoleum flooring.
The RFK Community Schools marks the most comprehensive public art program in LAUSD’s history, with installation fully integrated into the history, purpose, and architecture of the site.
+ Project credits / data
Project: The Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools
Architect: Gonzalez Goodale Architects | http://www.gonzalezgoodale.com
Location: Los Angeles, CA, USA
Program: Education | School
Photography: © Magnus Stark
+ About Gonzalez Goodale Architects
Gonzalez Goodale Architects was established in 1979 to assist institutions in transforming their environments to reflect each organization’s community and goals. As a firm focused on designing for public, institutional and corporate clients, Gonzalez Goodale Architects is committed to an open and interactive design process. The work is inspired by local references that make a given place subtly different: historic, poetic, narrative, topographical, ethnic or spiritual.
Projects include: University of La Verne Campus Center; Monrovia Library; El Dorado Nature Center in Long Beach; LAUSD Glassell Park Early Education Center and Housing; and El Monte Union High School District: Rosemead and Arroyo new classroom buildings and library expansions, and new administrative headquarters.