Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School

Educational Architecture Built

Professional Category

Studio: ROBERT KERR architecture design

Architect / Designer: Robert Kerr AIA

Design Team:

Robert Kerr AIA (Architect)
Chris Cortez, Jessica Gardner (Junior Designer)
Elizabeth Mahlow (Structural Engineer)

Country: United States

Copyright: Art Gray

Our Lady Of Guadalupe’s School is an elevated, elongated bar building that hovers, covers, zigs and zags as a K-8 school responding to existing buildings, zoning restrictions and its hillside corner site.

Twenty miles south of Los Angeles (and .75 miles from the beach) in the dense residential beach community of Hermosa Beach, the new 6,000 sf catholic school’s program includes 2 classrooms (STEM & Music), faculty areas and administrative offices.

Faculty and student support services allows the school to meet 21st century needs with a Work/Mail Room, Tutoring Rooms, Health Room, Lounge and Conference Room.

The STEM’s ceiling was left out to expose utilities, framing and ducts to reveal how the building works. The Music Room’s 12’ tall folding doors allow overflow seating on the Upper Patio for performances and assemblies.

Creating a forward-thinking building with an expanded curriculum that includes dedicated Music and STEM rooms drives architectural decisions. In addition to programming the building recenters the campus entry, enhances security and provides a more socially-oriented community.

Passive cooling is a primary design concern due to the moderate beach climate and achieved with a full solar/PV array, by pulling most circulation to the exterior, creating large covered spaces and raising the building 1 story above grade. Two rounded openings are also placed in the roof to allow natural lighting deep into campus.

Additionally, sun studies led to formal choices and color selections to emphasize shadows as they move across the building’s bright facade each day. Overhangs and their openings were specifically calibrated to create additional shadow patterns.

Bright exterior colors and concrete support wall placement presents a floating building that defies gravity. The drama is heightened when children play underneath. The support walls are spread to allow parking between, and are pulled from the face of the building so they disappear into shadows below.

Tight zoning restrictions for parking and height were turned into design opportunities by raising the building off the ground, keeping the building shorter toward the street to fit into neighborhood context and allowing activities under the building.

Stairs anchor each end of the building and reinforce the site’s slope by making one light, open and sculptural while the second is carved deep into the hillside.

The southern stair is an open steel stair wrapping a 2-story concrete wall that is a performance backdrop for people going up and down. Below this stair is a concrete bench that doubles as the ADA under-stair barrier, and is a student hangout spot, place for playground equipment and a backpack shelf.

The northern stair is concrete, wedged between the building and street, starts under the building and exits onto the sunny Upper Patio. The phenomenological experience is conceived around material and the environment.

Long windows mimic circulation, and allow faculty to watch children at recess just as students can observe faculty as they work in the building.

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a passive building that answers 21st century academic requirements that also creates a stronger social environment.


ROBERT KERR architecture design LogoROBERT KERR architecture design

ROBERT KERR architecture design’s focus is to incorporate the spontaneity and intricacy of contemporary life into specific creations. This is achieved with a rigorous design process that engages the relationships between each client, their social or cultural environments and the specifics of their site. Our approach is holistic while understanding the best architecture (and design) often arises from unconventional, creative thinking. Reclamation while creating innovative formal expressions, financial permanence and environmental sustainability remain our priority. We strive for an economical, sociological and environmental solution on each project.