Irene Snow Elementary School

Napa, CA

In the wake of the 2014 earthquake in Napa, fault traces were discovered on the site of Irene Snow Elementary School. The Napa Valley Unified School District decided to rebuild the 420-student school on the same site, outside the no-build zone.

The design team developed a phasing plan that would allow for interim housing to be provided on the same site while the new campus was built. A village of 26 portable building was moved in for the school year while the old school buildings were demolished and the new 40,000 SF campus was constructed.


The long narrow site slopes from the West entry down towards the play fields at the East end of campus. The 26’ drop was incorporated into a central circulation axis to connect the entry plaza, classrooms and playground. A trench drain spans each level change, capturing water which feeds a biofiltration basin at the far edge of the site.


Corrugated aluminum paneling at each of the two main entries provide a signature material for the campus which evokes the rural agricultural surroundings where corrugated metal is ubiquitous. At each of the two main entries to the inner campus, a large swing gate allows for the security fence to open up, providing a welcoming entry during pick-up and drop-off times, while maintaining a secure campus during the school day and in the evenings.


The new Multi-use Building greets students and community members at the North drop-off and parking lot. The form of the building took inspiration from the old Multi-use Building’s geometric forms and butterfly roof. Exposed steel and a glazed entry corner lend a contemporary and sophisticated sensibility to the architecture, while a bright and fresh color scheme energizes the campus.


The 30’ x 32’ modular classrooms allow for more flexible teaching styles than the traditional “shoebox” shape. The buildings feature north-facing clerestory windows and sloped ceilings which provide an even distribution of light throughout the classrooms.