Ojai Foundation School

Ojai, California

The Ojai Foundation School was designed to serve as an educational and retreat center with a firm commitment to land stewardship and environmental awareness. This project represents a fusion of Sim Van der Ryn's principles of ECO-LOGIC Design. The 12,500 sq. ft. village conforms to site contours and uses excavated site materials for rammed earth walls and appropriate technologies for cooling, heating and lighting.

The Foundation School serves as an educational and retreat center. The complex of buildings was designed as a village surrounding a central commons large enough for the entire community to gather in celebration or performance. Using rammed earth as the primary building material, the project combines ancient wisdom of form and place with a high level of ecological intelligence.

A range of ecological design strategies were implemented to work with the natural factors of the site. The design reflects a thorough understanding of the natural factors on site and responds by employing the following ecological design principles.

  • Sun/shade - Summer shading and winter sun access.
  • Water - Rainwater collection, purification, and greywater recycling.
  • Wind - Cross-ventilation and cooling towers.
  • Earth - Thermal mass for summer cooling and winter heating integration into the land form.
  • Energy - Solar-heated radiant slab for heat, and photovoltaics for lighting.

Site/Floor Plan

Private and public functions are planned around a central common area for the entire community to gather in celebration or performance. Access to living units is arranged around shaded courtyards to promote the social interaction desired between staff and students.

Site Section

Southern California's climate of intense sun made solar control a major component in the design of this school. The terraced living quarters help to create shaded walking paths while the common area is shaded from extreme summer temperatures by a festive tent structure.

Aerial View of Model from the West

In the arid valley of Ojai, California water is a precious element to be conserved and celebrated. The region's scarcity of water is addressed through rain water collection and purification, conservation, and grey water recycling systems. The reclaimed water would be stored under the central common area for future irrigation use. Some of this water would also be circulated around the common area and through a fountain to provide evaporative cooling and visual and auditory pleasure.