Architect: LPA Design Studios
Owner: Sequoia Union High School District
Location: Menlo Park, Calif.
From its location in Silicon Valley, the new STEAM-focused TIDE Academy signals its focus on 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, offering greater access to the school and promoting new partnerships.
Designed for the “known and the unknown,” TIDE Academy occupies a two-acre site along the Bayfront area of Menlo Park, which is 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 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 facade helps orient the public side of the building and highlights the daily motion of the school’s educational processes.
The team prioritized multimodal 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, multi-use 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 six feet above grade, three feet above existing primary electrical services and an additional three feet as a resilience strategy.
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 transportation is also expected to provide new access to the school, cementing its place as a resource for the broader community.