A modular high school: My design, created for Frederick Fisher and Partners while I worked for them as a staff architect, and published in the Los Angeles Times, features prefabricated classrooms plugged into grids that spring from an earthbound library/auditorium/administration building.
Our thought at Frederick Fisher’s office was that because resources are scarce, schools should be considered as integral centers of their neighborhoods, not isolated compounds. Playing fields, media presentation spaces, classrooms, and auditoriums all can be used after hours by the surrounding community. It makes sense that co-use by many private and public institutions could translate into more varied sources of financial support.
Second, we came to the conclusion that building construction techniques should allow for the rapid development of affordable, state-of-the-art facilities whose requirements are constantly changing. We came to believe that pre-manufactured buildings could, as Fred Fisher wrote at the time, “offer substantial economies of cost and time.” Prefabricated modular classrooms, labs, offices, and bathrooms could be designed for production at existing factories and plugged into a utility and circulation infrastructure that would extend across the site.
Today, as resources are still scarce and technology seems to hurtle forward at ever-increasing speed, these ideas from two decades ago are still relevant. Maybe we can succeed in Pittsburgh where Los Angeles has not. Our students deserve facilities that prepare them for 21st century life while reinforcing their developing sense of themselves and their place in the world. New schools don’t have to follow typologies from a hundred years ago. Concepts from this modular high school design could be implemented today at costs well below that of standard construction.