American School Foundation of Guadalajara High School

Architecture firm: Flansburgh Architects, GVA  Arquitectos  

Owner: Jason McGrath

Location: Guadalajara, Mexico  

Category: Merit

Project site: Previously developed

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

This new seven-story open-air structure has doubled the American School Foundation of Guadalajara’s academic space in one of Mexico’s rapidly growing cities. Bold and forward-looking in its approach to serving its 1,500 students, the school draws on the bright colors, natural materials, and crisp designs that resonate with the city’s cultural heritage and elevate campus spirit.

The project was influenced by community feedback gathered across three design workshops, which engaged stakeholders and ensured they felt connected and empowered. The team’s primary goals were to increase classroom size and introduce compelling modern educational facilities. Guided by the idea of extending its ground plane upward as developments and high-rise buildings continue to grow around it, the school has increased its space to accommodate enrollment growth and benefit the surrounding community.

Sustainability was crucial to the design, and the school connects to lush green spaces that harness the city’s climate. More than 90% of the school is naturally lit, and its open design and room arrangement support airflow through the building. The concrete floors, comprised of local sand and crushed stone, absorb the city’s low nighttime temperatures to radiate coolness throughout the day.

“This school features effective passive strategies coupled with simple but well-designed interior spaces. Its connections to the site and surrounding environment are very strong.” - Jury comment

The school’s flexible academic spaces elevate educational aspirations and support a wide range of teaching and learning. Indoor classrooms boast acoustical wood panels and glass walls that help establish verbal and visual connections between students and faculty both in and out of the classroom. Additional learning environments, such as a library, makerspace, hands-on science lab, and collaborative learning spaces, shape an engaging academic environment. Motivated by a sense of freedom and connection to their community, students are encouraged to reflect and reenergize in the school’s outdoor classrooms and rooftop terraces.

The series of common areas and meandering paths help stimulate interaction among the school’s diverse population and between academic programs. Students and faculty are connected directly to the community surrounding them, and the school’s outdoor spaces provide sweeping views of Guadalajara. Firmly rooted in its place, the school celebrates its locale while providing an engaging environment for bilingual and bicultural education.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of substantial project completion: 2021

Gross conditioned floor area: 188,400 sq. ft.

Project team

Architect: Flansburgh Architects

Associate Architect: GVA Arquitectos  

Engineer - Structural: BEST  

Engineer - MEP Profinel  

Engineer - LEED: Eosis  

Interior Architect: LAB [3.2] Architecture    

Consultant - Construction Managers: Cushman & Wakefield


Lori Cappucio, AIA (Chair), SmithGroup, Washington, DC

Omar Bailey, AIA, Shepley Finch, Phoenix

Vince Gonzales, AIA, Seattle Public Schools, Seattle

Kandis Larsen, AIA, Integrus + YGH, Spokane, Wash.

Sindu Meier, AIA, William Rawn Associates, Milton, Mass.

Image credits

American School Foundation of Guadalajara

Robert Benson

American School Foundation of Guadalajara - High School

Robert Benson

American School Foundation of Guadalajara - High School

Robert Benson

American School Foundation of Guadalajara - High School

Robert Benson

American School Foundation of Guadalajara - High School

Robert Benson

American School Foundation of Guadalajara - High School

Robert Benson