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Straight A's: Horace Mann Elementary School by Moore Ruble Yudell

San Jose, California: A student "village" makes a good neighbor in the heart of an urban historic district.

by ArchNewsNow
April 13, 2004

San Jose, California, is a city that takes pride in its many downtown open spaces and planned linear connections. Located on three acres at the eastern edge of historic downtown, the new $21.5 million Horace Mann Elementary School, designed by Santa Monica-based Moore Ruble Yudell, is a cohesive campus of forms and courtyards that respond to the urban context. The new buildings step from one to three stories, and a variety of courtyards, turf play areas, terraces, and gathering spaces provide a link between the school and the larger community. "Children deserve a comfortable place," says Moore Ruble Yudell Senior Associate James Mary O'Connor. “We wanted to create the opportunity for wonder and exploration.”


In addition to classrooms for 750 students from kindergarten to 5th grade, the new campus includes an administration wing, a library with an expanded media center, unassigned or “lab” classrooms for special uses (such as a computer lab, cooking demonstrations, etc.), a child care facility (phase 2), and a large multipurpose cafetorium – a flexible lunchroom that doubles as an auditorium for school assemblies, as well as lectures, plays, and other community gatherings. The project is part of a larger urban design master plan that also includes the new San Jose City Hall and Civic Center complex nearby.


The design emphasizes clarity in plan, as well as continuity and contiguity of the different components. An academic building stretching along Sixth Street and the north boundary of the site houses classrooms, kindergarten, and a library on the second floor facing East Santa Clara Street. The administration building is centrally located and faces the main entry with views of the entire campus. The multipurpose cafeteria building anchors the corner of Seventh and Santa Clara, with easy access to play fields as well as to the public when the space is used for off-hour community programs.


Building systems are laid out for flexibility to allow for area zoning to accommodate a variety daytime and seasonal use for different programs. A campanile-like stair tower features balconies as social spaces, and sculptural exterior stairways link rooftop play areas and circulation galleries to the ground. Translucent canopies cover walkways and offer a protected outdoor spot for lunching outside the cafetorium.


Interior spaces take advantage of natural light and ventilation for a high-quality learning and work environment. The material palette relates the school to its surroundings, yet also distinguishes it from its neighbors. Masonry block units, integrally colored in ochre tones, create a tough but finely textured base to the buildings relating to surrounding structures (the historic Vintage building, the Kasota stone of the San Jose Museum, and the bluff travertine planned for the Civic Center), and is at the same time appropriate to an elementary school. Metal cladding on the upper floors and on gently pitched roof forms provide a durable and memorable image against the sky.


Project credits:


Owner: San Jose Unified School District; The Redevelopment Agency of the City of San Jose

Design Architect: Moore Ruble Yudell

Design Team: John Ruble, FAIA (Principal-in-Charge), Buzz Yudell, FAIA (Principal), James Mary O'Connor (Senior Associate-in-Charge), Adam Padua (Project Manager), Tina Beebe, Kaoru Orime, Yana Khudyakova (Colors and Materials), Alberto Reano, Lisa Belian, Ed Diamante, Martin Saavedra, Roger Lopez, Tony Tran, (Project Team), Mark Grand, Matthew Vincent, Vely Zajec, Lance Collins (Models)

Executive Architect: BFGC Architects Planners Inc., David R. Cartnal, FAIA (Principal Architect), Rob Hikido (Project Manager)
Project Management: Kitchell CEM

Landscape Architect: Pamela Burton & Co., Pamela Burton (Principal), Angie Coyier (Project Manager)

Rendering: Al Forster

Photography: John Edward Linden; Art Gray (310-450-2806); Steve Proehl/Aerial Photographer (707-824-9943)


Concrete masonry: Air Vol Block, Inc.
Metal Roofing and Siding: AEP Span
Translucent Canopy Panels: Kalwall
Aluminum Curtainwall and Storefront Systems (exterior): Vistawall

Aluminum Windows: Moduline Windows, Inc.
Glazing (glass): Pilkington Building Products (glass); Alcoa Cladding Systems (opaque panels) 


Since the founding of Moore Ruble Yudell Architects & Planners with Charles Moore in 1977, principals John Ruble and Buzz Yudell have built a varied body of work ranging from private residences to multi-million-dollar institutional, civic, and mixed-use developments. The initial goal of Moore Ruble Yudell was to have an intensive collaboration among the principals, with the collaborative spirit extending to include project staff and clients. The principals pioneered the use of client and community workshops in the design process. Their work on a wide range of building types has given them extensive experience working with complex client groups as well as regulatory and governmental agencies. The firm has received numerous major awards for design excellence.


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(click on pictures to enlarge)

(John Edward Linden)
Horace Mann Elementary School: administration building

(John Edward Linden)
Sixth Street entry

(John Edward Linden)
The translucent entry marquee is crafted from steel and Kalwall.

(Steve Proehl Aerial Photographer)
Aerial view of campus

(Moore Ruble Yudell)
Site plan

(John Edward Linden)
Third-floor upper playground and lower playing field give two options for recreation areas.

(Art Gray)
The stair tower, with balconies as social spaces

(Art Gray)
Stair tower

(John Edward Linden)
The translucent Kalwall canopy resembles a shoji screen.

(Art Gray)
The canopy outside the cafetorium offers al fresco lunching.

(John Edward Linden)
The central stairway is inspired by a child's tree house.

(Art Gray)
Exterior view of multi-functional cafetorium

(Art Gray)
Cafetorium interior

(Art Gray)
Cafetorium street-front window

(Art Gray)
Library exterior, along Santa Clara Street

(Moore Ruble Yudell)

(Moore Ruble Yudell)
Ground floor plan

(Moore Ruble Yudell)
Site plan showing paving

(Steve Proehl Aerial Photographer)
Kindergarten playground with administration building to the right

© 2004