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High Tech Middle & High Media Arts


School Website:

Guiding Principles:

Personalization, Common Intellectual Mission, Adult-World Connections, Teacher as Designer


6-8 and 9-12 charter public middle and high schools serving 300 and 400 students respectively. 1949 classroom building, 3-story, 80,000 SF, renovated and added onto in 2006.

Design Features:

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, California

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.

High Tech Middle Media Arts (HTMMA), and High Tech High Media Arts (HTHMA) are the fourth and fifth HTH schools to be launched at HTH Village in Point Loma (San Diego), CA. Housing 320 students in grades 6-8, and 400 students in grades 9-12, they occupy the second and third floors of 3-story, 80,000 square foot industrial building with “International Style” fenestration. HTH’s primary school, Explorer Elementary, occupies the first floor of the building.

Designed as a collaborative effort between the HTH design team (under the direction of New Vista’s David Stephen) and Carrier Johnson Architects, The HTHMA and HTHMA facilities further develop the detailing of those key spaces that HTH has found to be essential to its inquiry-based academic approach: commons rooms; galleries; classroom neighborhoods; multi-purpose seminar rooms; studio spaces; shared teacher work spaces; and distributed administrative offices.

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The “T”-shaped footprint of the existing building shell suggested the creation of light-filled “California corridors,” off of which classrooms neighborhoods have been located, as well as offices, meeting rooms, and specialty labs. Frequent and well-placed window openings foster transparency, and allow borrowed light to enter deep into seminar rooms and studio spaces.

One significant shift that can be observed in these buildings is the evolution of the studio spaces, which are no longer conceived of as carpeted “living room” areas, but as combination exhibition spaces, project building studios, study areas, and computer labs. Because so much project building goes on in HTH schools, it became impractical to carpet seminar or studio spaces. Furthermore, the high level of ownership that is created within each classroom neighborhood makes it possible for students to leave laptop computers and classroom projects safely unattended in what have essentially become centrally located project labs.

The HTMMA and HTHMA commons rooms are each located at their building entries, at the intersections of the “T.” The carpeted commons areas can be set up for large school gatherings, group workshops, classes, and independent study. Full audio/visual capabilities and stage lighting adapt to use for theatrical performances, with an overhead curtain that can subdivide that space in a variety of ways. A grand stairway added to the exterior of the building effectively separates the middle school on the second floor from the high school on the third floor. The two schools are completely separate administratively and physically.

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.

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.

Project Numbers


grade levels.





Project Gallery

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