Location: San Francisco
Program: Convert prior conservatory of music landmark building into middle & high school for approx. 400 students
Area: 44,000sf
Images: Ed Caldwell
General Contractor: Turner Construction
Structural Engineer: Puns & Associates
Civil Engineer: DeBolt Civil Engineering
Architect of Record: Hilliard Architects

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Lycée Français de San Francisco

This 44,000sf San Francisco landmark building was originally constructed in 1927 and operated as an orphanage until 1956 when sold to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and used as such for the following 50 years. Its conversion into a middle/high school saved the building from demolition and maintains its consistent identity with youth and education.

Three major challenges had to be overcome for this extensive remodeling project: keeping the historical character of the original structure, changing the occupancy use of the building from secondary education to middle / high-school, and working on a tight schedule (18 months from acquisition to final occupancy) to open on time for class.

A school committee composed of parents & staff developed the design program and participated through the Design Development phase. A project website with extensive 3D modeling was developed to facilitate understanding and input from the community.

One general design intent was to replace many of the original small music practice rooms and long, dark corridors, with large classrooms served by day-lit corridors. This was achieved by the removal of eleven original 10 ft concrete walls without shoring or underpinning. Another design strategy was to move the original music library to a more central and accessible location. The new library is now located on the second floor to access the old roof terrace, daylight and views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands beyond. Existing steel roof trusses above the ceiling were coated with intumescent fireproofing and exposed to create a large and voluminous reading room. The main entry was also relocated to the south side of the building to accommodate the number of students. This entailed having to construct a new major stairway to the second floor. The old parking lot was resurfaced and converted into a new multi play court for the children.

Other key elements of the remodeling include:

  • The neighborhood is residential with a major boulevard on the east side. Student drop-off is located on the west side with entry through the playcourt and south lobby.
  • Classes and offices are zoned away from the noisy boulevard.
  • The central courtyard is a ‘living room’ that unites the multipurpose room, lobbies and auditorium and encourages interaction of students and faculty.
  • An original 2000sf roof terrace on the building’s north side that was lost in an earlier remodeling will be re-opened for student use.
  • The science labs are grouped together and interconnected for flexibility and cross-discipline projects.
  • High efficiency lighting with occupancy sensors are installed in all rooms.
  • All custom casework and shelves use FSC certified wood. All paints, wood finishes, flooring and ceiling tiles are certified low VOC and formaldehyde free where applicable.
  • Mobile duct-free vent hoods were used in labs to save energy and provide greater flexibility.