Jacobs High Tech High
Personalization; Common Intellectual Mission; Adult World Connections; and Teacher as Designer
9-12 charter public high school serving 550 students. 1949 steel framed warehouse building, 42,000 SF, single story, renovated in stages between 2000-2004.
Commons Areas, Grade Level Teaching Neighborhoods, cross-discipline Teacher’s Offices, teamed Classrooms with movable walls, Learning Studios, Specialty Labs, Fabrication Labs, and varied Display and Exhibition venues.
San Diego, CA
Part of a network of 16 charter schools that span the K-12 spectrum, High Tech High attracts over 5,000 visitors annually who come to San Diego to learn from its innovative project-based pedagogy and its approach to the design of simple and flexible school facilities.
Starting as one charter high school program in 2000, High Tech High has expanded into a network of 16 connected but autonomous elementary, middle and high schools that are co-located within four “villages” located throughout greater San Diego. The network is distinguished by its unwavering commitment to cross-discipline, project-based, and community-connected programming, as well as to serving a wide range of students, 65% of whom are students of color and 50% of whom qualify for free and reduced lunch.
Jacobs High Tech High is the network’s first school. Opening in September, 2000, its dynamic facility is located on the grounds of the former Naval Training Center in Point Loma (San Diego), CA, in the midst of what is now a thriving mixed-use development that includes adjacent housing, business and retail establishments, cultural institutions, and public plazas and parks. Housing 550 students in grades 9-12, the building was designed as a collaborative effort between the HTH design team (under the direction of New Vista’s David Stephen) and Carrier Johnson Architects. The project entails the adaptive reuse and complete renovation of a 38,500 square foot warehouse building, the interior of which boasts saw-tooth skylights which flood the building with natural light, and an exposed steel structural system that runs its entire length. With its ubiquitous technology, flexible spaces, open sight lines, and high-end finishes, the facility was designed as a model for 21st Century teaching and learning.
Visitors often remark upon entering, that HTH feels more like a high-performance work environment than a school. Exhibitions of student artwork and academic projects are displayed throughout the building, making learning highly evident and interactive. In addition to housing one of the most advanced high school 3-D modeling and animation labs in the country, the facility houses state-of-the-art biochemistry, engineering, and robotics labs. A large and centrally located “commons” room serves as the intellectual hub of the school, a space for whole-school meetings, and a backdrop for the formal and informal presentation of student work.
Circulation throughout the building takes place along “galleries,” each showcasing student projects and offering multiple vistas into the school’s seminar rooms (classrooms) and administrative spaces. Many of the school’s 18 seminar rooms are clustered around unprogrammed, open “studio” spaces, thus creating smaller “neighborhoods” within the building. This approach was expanded upon in the design of the second HTH school, High Tech Middle.
New Vista’s David Stephen was a co-founder of flagship Jacobs High Tech High school and served from 2000-2003 as its Academic Coordinator, then from 2003-2006 as Director of Design for the first five HTH facilities. Now serving over 7,000 students, the HTH network hosts over 5,000 visitors per year who come from across the globe to observe school programs, participate in professional development seminars, and learn from its innovative facilities.