Wright Charter School, Santa Rosa

Wright Charter School

Santa Rosa, CA

Wright Charter School needed a new multi-purpose building to serve its K-8 students who come from predominantly lower income homes. When asked how the building itself could be a teaching tool for its Eco-Literacy curriculum, we jumped at the chance to create hands-on activities that explore sustainable design strategies.


The school sits at the western edge of Santa Rosa where farmlands are intermixed with suburban residential and industrial neighborhoods. Given its location, the new multi-use building supports a population short on gathering facilities and is frequently in use by a variety of community organizations.


Numerous design elements support the school’s eco-literacy focus. Water in particular is highlighted on the campus through the collection and release of rainwater in playful and educational ways. At the front entrance, students can engage with a purposefully directed downspout, which becomes a rain-activated waterfall that feeds a cobbled retention. Facing the playground, a rain catchment tank is fitted with a hand pump used by the students to water their herb garden.


Wherever possible the windows extend to the floor to connect to the outdoor environment, including rain gardens. The landscape design references plant communities and conditions found in nature in an effort to integrate landscape-based learning opportunities with the campus. By sharing ownership of these eco-systems students take pride in their school and community.


Much of the exterior cladding is weathering (Corten) steel, which will gradually rust over the course of the next several years, providing a beautiful patina and another lesson in line with the school’s science curriculum.

Wright Charter School, Santa Rosa


Wright Charter School, Santa Rosa

The full service kitchen serves 2 hot meals a day to the students and boasts nutritional choices full of vegetables from the school’s learning garden. Tuesday lunch is a favored tradition at Wright Charter School!


Client: Wright School District

Size: 9,403

Budget: $5 M

Completion: 2016