Healdsburg High School Modernization / Basalt and Ice in a Drought-Tolerant Landscape

The recent modernization of Healdsburg High School illustrates design and construction ingenuity in drought-tolerant, accessible and educational landscapes. QKA, the architects, retained Carducci Associates to collaborate on a renovation of the school’s interior and exterior architecture, infrastructure and landscape. Carducci’s focus on Phase 2 saw the radical demolition of several building wings transform the school’s drop-off area into a sweeping plaza.

With an opportunity of this magnitude, Principal Vince Lattanzio and Senior Associate Tim Skinner (bios here) proposed a grand yet simple gesture. The administration desired an outdoor classroom with seating and gathering opportunities. As a response, the formal orchard layout of fruitless olive trees reflects the surrounding agricultural land of Sonoma County and blends harmoniously with the open plaza concept. Large freeform areas of synthetic turf soften the space and, along with neutral concrete paving, provide universal access to the entire plaza and outdoor classroom. The synthetic turf is also desirable from an educational program and maintenance perspective: it does not require irrigation or air- and noise-polluting mowers.

Basalt stone provides a sophisticated and natural seating opportunity, which creates a unique atmosphere at half the cost of cast-in-place concrete benches. The basalt sits directly on the synthetic turf, which has a deepened aggregate base to displace the weight and avoid expensive footings. The contractor had an ingenious method for craning the pieces into place and extracting their sling from under the stone without tearing the turf: ice. The crane set each piece of basalt in a super-elevated position on ice, and then removed the sling. As the ice melted, the stones eventually came to sit in their permanent spot. The students and staff alike fondly refer to the plaza as ‘their Stonehenge’.

Site Visit

Joseph Conrad Square / A Safer, More Sustainable Urban Landscape

From the windows of our San Francisco office, we can see the trees of Joseph Conrad Square, a mini-park in the heart of Fisherman’s Wharf. The Square provides a respite from its high-traffic surroundings; however, the last designer to touch this small, leafy park was Garrett Eckbo, in 1985.

In 2015, the Fisherman’s Wharf Community Benefit District hired Carducci Associates to design short-term improvements to the Square, which falls under the responsibility of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. Currently, the city’s Municipal Transportation Agency (MTA) is also studying the Square as a possible T-Line MUNI station.

Principal Bill Fee and Associate Principal Jin Kim (bios here) proposed changes to the park that are based on the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Modest strategies include tree pruning, lampposts, irrigation system upgrades and colorful, low growing and drought tolerant plants. An existing retaining wall will be painted bright orange as a place-making device: as in, “I will meet you at the orange wall.”

Following meetings with neighborhood residents this year, the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department provided informal approval of the proposed design. The Department continues to move forward by raising funds, pruning trees and seeking approvals from the Mayor’s Office of Disability, for a categorical exemption from the Planning Department, and formal approval from the Recreation & Parks Commission. Once these goals are met, we will begin to install our design.

For current information on Joseph Conrad Square, visit here and here.

Below are original 1982 plan, paving and detail drawings by Garrett Eckbo with Eckbo Kay Associates.

Press Release / Site Visit