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“Building as a Teaching Tool” San Francisco, CA
In progress, open for 2014-2015 Academic Year in Fall 2014


How can an independent school optimize its physical environment as a tool to help educate for the 21st century? As the instructional tools of education advance and adapt to incorporate new technology and teaching & learning methods, the physical environment needs to modernize accordingly. Town School for Boys is situated in a mid-century school building while desiring a contemporary learning environment. The school is an aggregate of disjointed additions that hamper programs as it reaches the limits of its ability to support high performance teaching methodologies and new technologies. Reigning in decades of additions, the goal is to remove impediments to the school’s overall mission of helping boys discover their strengths and talents.


MKThink has worked with teachers, administrators and students to develop building-wide strategies that would promote connections between teachers, students and their environment to enhance educational programs. As part of this robust assessment, the team also sees an opportunity to re-envision the organization and efficiency of the building itself. Phase 1 began with a preliminary test of the STEM (Science/ Technology/ Engineering/ Math) classrooms, with construction completed during summer vacation. Phase 2 saw the school relocated in its entirety to the vacant Palace of Fine Arts for the 2013-2014 Academic Year – the school preferred to not separate its K-8 programs in order to maintain continuity for its students.

Phase 2’s 15-month construction has included The redevelopment of the building’s Core, Gathering, and Circulation Areas to improve visual and spatial flow between various learning spaces has been a critical physical success factor. In addition, the building was designed to help teach students about science, technology, environment, and architecture, and include new tech labs, a roof-top learning garden, and a new multipurpose and art room. The building now employs environmental strategies for interior ventilation, thermal comfort control, and daylighting.


The result is a comprehensive rethinking of the way the school functions. Every detail of the new educational environment has been considered, from the scheduling and right-sizing of classroom spaces to the creation of new spatial typologies necessitated by a dynamic 21st-century curriculum. A conscientious restructuring of the daily schedule to maximize utilization and minimize latent space complements Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) classrooms, collaboration space, and a new commons.

Town School for Boys from Nexus 1 on Vimeo.