Transforming a WWII Military Base Into a Center of Vocational Study

Richard N. Slawson Southeast Occupational Center, Los Angeles Unified School District, Bell, CA

What was once the site of a WWII military base is now an 80,000 sf vocational and adult school serving the communities surrounding Bell, CA. CannonDesign created the program and Educational Specifications to house 29 occupational programs on one campus, which include cosmetology, culinary, automotive, construction, forensic, computer and business courses. These programs are housed within three sets of unique learning environments – Construction and Automotive Functions; Culinary Arts and Food Services; Business and Health Services – and in three separate campus buildings.

Visitors to the 80,000 sf, 13-acre campus are greeted by an elongated two-story classroom building with its undulating industrial façade of corrugated metal, yellow and white striping and rhythmic windows. A palette of construction safety colors unifies the campus, and departmental super graphics provide wayfinding and create identity. The main entry is framed by the Administration and Student/Community Multipurpose buildings with its celebratory butterfly “cool roof” structure. The Construction and Automotive Services Building is muscular by nature of its durable CMU construction, high bay volumes, clearstory windows, abundance of day lighting and the Electrical Lineman pole yard, outdoor classroom and lay-down area. Vehicular construction services are clearly separated from pedestrian access and the central student commons.

Indoor and outdoor classrooms provide hands-on contextual learning opportunities and project-based instruction through active workshops, mock-up and demonstration areas, all of which help meet the increased demand for a highly skilled and well-trained “green collar” workforce. The buildings and site function as a learning tool; building systems are exposed to provide valuable student insight into building construction, systems and technology. Clearstory windows provide borrowed day lighting in corridors, classrooms and shop areas. The occupational course sequences target comprehensive skills resulting in skill certificates and prerequisite courses for apprenticeships.

The project achieved CHPS, HPI and Savings by Design. The architectural and site environment teaches students to be socially responsible stewards of our environment through the use of bio-swales, native planting, natural day lighting, “cool” roofs, environmentally “green” products and improved indoor air quality. The project received Leroy Green AIA/CC Coalition of School Housing Honor Award in 2014.