American Canyon, CA – Napa Valley Unified School District serves the communities of American Canyon, Napa City, and Yountville. The district is comprised of over 30 schools serving more than 17,000 students in Transitional Kindergarten (TK) through Grade 12.

As Napa Valley USD continues to flourish, they are in need of a new middle school facility. This has been primarily driven by an increase in the population for the Napa area and the need for a second middle school on the west side of American Canyon. As the population continues to grow and educational needs continue to evolve, ATI unveils its plans for the district’s new school.

The Planning and Design Process

ATI developed this design through a series of collaborative discussions with the District, a survey of existing middle school teachers, and community presentations.

The school community’s desire to minimize traffic congestion, provide safe pedestrian circulation, campus security, connectivity between classroom wings, various gathering places, and green spaces informed the site planning process. As a result, plentiful parking stalls, extended loading/queuing lanes, and traffic calming crosswalks are provided to aid with safe traffic flow.

Meeting the Students’ and Community’s Needs

As the educational needs evolve, the learning spaces must adapt as well. A variety of learning spaces are offered in keeping with the District’s emphasis on inclusivity, STEAM curriculum, BYOD technology, visual and performing arts, and whole child wellness. Each learning space is designed for flexible use with the integration of a 21st Century Learning Environment; this includes multiple teaching surfaces capable of connecting to technology and plenty of power and wireless access ports. In addition to the educational needs for the modern integration of technology, our design team incorporated the student’s and staff’s need for a comfortable and efficient learning environment. They did this by utilizing north facing windows to allow comfortable, natural light, vaulted ceilings to reflect and diffuse light, acoustically treated walls, and durable finishes.

From athletic events to performing arts to recreational events, schools are central hubs of activity for the surrounding community. American Canyon Middle School covers these possible community needs.

In anticipation of joint-use facilities opportunities with the City of American Canyon, the site has been planned to accommodate a future community pool on the south side of the gymnasium. The gymnasium itself is designed with feedback from Parks and Recreation staff to be outfitted with a sound system, large screen projection, a catering prep room, office space, and additional storage space to support community recreational activities and public functions. With infrastructure planned for future field lighting, the all-weather track and field and grass practice soccer field will also be available for community athletic events. The multi-use building with an indoor performance stage and the outdoor stage with a covered audience seating area are also venues for visual and performing arts performances that the community will have the opportunity to attend. 

Inspiration from the World Around Us

ATI practices a form follows function design approach to each project, this can be seen in the way our design team utilized the needs of the school and natural landscape in the middle school’s overall design. “The shape and forms of the buildings were largely dictated by functional requirements as well as a desire to take advantage of naturally sloping site conditions and leaving opportunities for a mix of large and small outdoor convening areas,” said Anna Win, Principal and Senior Project Manager at ATI. This will allow students and school staff to take advantage of the temperate climate of the Napa Area and enjoy the sunshine with the campus’ abundant outdoor seating and dynamic shade structure.

The outdoor stage and grounds of the central court take shape as radial arcs emanating from the heart of one of the District’s most valued learning spaces, the music classroom, and performance stage. Radial walk paths tie the classroom buildings across the court to each other, physically and symbolically. “The original concept of the site plan emanates from Center Stage of the performance area inside the Multi-purpose room, somewhat like an unfurling of the Koru (silver fern) spiral – “koru” is a Maori word representing new beginnings and growth,” said Anna.

ATI’s Senior Designer, Lisa Lim chose elements that mimic natural organic patterns such as hexagons, spirals, lines, and waves in an array of colors found outdoors such as teal, green, copper, and gray. Students will have the opportunity to utilize the grounds as an outdoor learning space with a visual connection from classroom to outdoors invites, rather than shut out, nature to be part of an everyday learning environment. Classrooms open directly to the exterior, minimally covered walkways which will allow students to revel in sunlight, rain, breezes, and the pleasant changes of the seasons.

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