Opsis Architecture is developing and implementing a master plan for the new private Manzanita School located in the Topanga Canyon north of Los Angeles. The 21-acre site is surrounded by dramatic rock outcroppings, seasonal streams and adjacent national forest land. The design team includes LA-based Parallax Architects and Mia Lehrer Landscape Architects. The school’s unique mission will offer an educational experience for upper-elementary, middle and high school-aged students through a focus on studies in human ecology, deep nature connection, and natural history. Its goal is to build broad interpersonal and academic competencies and life skills, cultivate the innate gifts of youth through mentorship, foster a life-long commitment to earth stewardship, and, through community education initiatives, develop new cultural paradigms that foster the vitality of the human being.
The team is working collaboratively with the school to create a design that tangibly represents these principles of the school while acting as an eco-conscious steward of the surrounding Santa Monica Mountains. The first phase of the multi-year masterplan includes a campus gateway building, outdoor learning spaces and a new two story learning center. The entry portal connects to a multi-level path that gradually ascends the hilly terrain, ensuring that students will be immersed in nature each time they enter the campus. Once they ascend the path, visitors enter the learning center with panoramic views into the canyons. The learning center makes use of the concept of an “outdoor room,” whereby students are surrounded by nature while simultaneously being kept within the framework of a structured learning environment. Both the path and the learning center foster a connection with nature in a welcoming way while minimizing human impact on the site.