TIDE Academy

Architecture Firm: LPA Design Studios

Owner: Sequoia Union High School District

Location: Menlo Park, Calif.

Category: Excellence

Project site: Previously developed

Building program type(s): Education - K-12 school

From its location in Silicon Valley, the new STEAM-focused TIDE Academy radiates an attitude of enterprise and invention. The school, filled with flexible and diverse learning spaces inspired by the innovative tech companies surrounding it, serves 400 students as they engage in interdisciplinary and inquiry-based study. By leveraging existing community assets, the school can nimbly extend its learning systems beyond its classroom walls, extending its reach to provide greater access and promote new partnerships.

Designed for the “known and the unknown,” TIDE Academy occupies a two-acre site in Menlo Park, a Bayfront neighborhood shifting from light industrial to residential and technology. Large parcels of land are increasingly scarce in Silicon Valley, so the small site spurred an ethos of doing more with less. The result is a condensed, vertical, three-story school that takes advantage of California’s mild climate to build less and create a better experience for students and faculty. The intimate campus emphasizes empathy and an enhanced sense of connection to place to foster a passion for knowledge with a firm emphasis on the future.

The academy is organized around a central courtyard that features several sustainable and pedagogical strategies. This signature feature offers space for assemblies, events, recreation, and social activities, and other learning spaces spill into it. Nearby, a perforated and performative scrim encapsulates the front of the school, mitigating sunlight and providing views in and out of the school. Its glazed northeast façade helps orient the public side of the building and highlights the daily motion of the school’s educational processes.

“This project’s materiality, sense of scale, and relationship to the bay and neighborhood are outstanding." - Jury comment

The team prioritized multi-modal and flexible spaces throughout the building. Operable partitions, moveable furniture, and integrated technology ensure the school’s future relevance and resilience. Given its proximity to some of the world’s most prominent and pioneering tech companies, future density provides context for the community-based urban school.

A combination of the academy’s massing, multiuse spaces that rely on exterior circulation, and the building’s scrim have resulted in a 67% reduction in energy use from the baseline. In addition, due to its proximity to the San Francisco Bay and the expected rise of storm surge levels, the academy was elevated three feet above existing primary electrical services and an additional three feet as a resilience strategy.

“This building is a statement, and its bold notion of programming provides students with a variety of unique spaces. It takes advantage of the climate and utilizes the outdoor spaces as learning environments.” - Jury comment

Because of its metropolitan location, TIDE Academy relies heavily on community assets to extend its campus. An adjacent park accommodates physical education, the city’s libraries are used for research, and the local community college offers dual enrollment. As the neighborhood continues its transformation, public transposition is also expected to evolve and provide new ways to access the school, cementing its place as a resource for the broader community.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2020

Gross conditioned floor area: 48,000 sq ft

Project team

Food Service: Webb Design

General Contractor: Arntz Builders


Diego Barrera, AIA (Chair), Stantec, Plano, Texas

Richey Madison, AIA, SmithGroup, Los Angeles

Xuemei Zhu, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Pam Loeffelman, FAIA, DLR Group, Estes Park, Colo.

Oswaldo Rivera-Ortiz, Assoc. AIA, Dallas Independent School District, Dallas

Image credits

aerial shot

Jason O’Rear


Jason O’Rear


Jason O’Rear

physics lab

Jason O’Rear

interior lab space

Jason O’Rear