Community Shares ‘Distinctly Archer’ Plans for Renovation

Sydney Stone May 31, 2014 5
Community Shares ‘Distinctly Archer’ Plans for Renovation
A rendering of the Court of Leaders looking at the New Performing Arts and Visual Arts buildings. archerforward.org 

Archer hopes to expand its campus in the coming years. The idea first arose with the Board of Trustees’ Strategic Plan in 2008.  This Strategic Plan specifically called for an expansion of facilities in order to compliment the quality of Archer programs. Today, the whole Archer community is involved in moving the school forward.

“I’m passionate about this school, therefore I’m passionate about its future.” -Head of School Elizabeth English on the Campus Plan

The Campus Plan

The plan calls for renovations of the north wing, underground parking, regulation playing fields and a gym that has enough space to accommodate both middle and upper school programs— a performing arts center, a small visual arts center and an aquatics center.

Architect Craig Jameson of Parallax Architects is the head architect for the plan. Jameson and his team renovated Archer’s library. He worked on the Brentwood School East Campus Aquatics Center and the West Campus Arts and Athletics Building.  He has also worked on Sierra Canyon School’s Upper School Master Plan, their Science and Humanities Building, new 12-acre sports fields, the Upper School Gymnasium and a new Performing Arts Center. In addition, he has worked on Chadwick School’s Performing Arts Center as well as Berkeley Hall School’s Arts and Science Building.

Jameson draws his inspiration for the current campus plan from a passage in Archer co-founder Dr. Diana Meehan’s book “Learning Like a Girl”:

. . . a classical scholar described an event several thousand years old: young girls sent into the woods to build their own shelters, forage for food, and study history, poetry and dance. No one would harm them, for they were under the aegis of the goddess, She who had various titles, including the Protector of Girls, the Archer.”

Jameson says, “We constantly return to this quote as we work to create a ‘distinctly Archer’ campus of gardens, trees and confident, sheltering forms where girls can spend their time learning, exploring and becoming strong, self-reliant individuals.”

Artist rendering of view from softball field to new multipurpose facility and renovated north wing. Courtesy of archerforward.org

Artist rendering of view from softball field to new multipurpose facility and renovated north wing. Used with permission from archerforward.org

Jameson believes that the Campus Plan is similar to his work on Archer’s library because he “[faces] the same challenge of creating contemporary space for academic uses around a 1931 vintage building.” He will be working around a Los Angeles Cultural/Historic monument and therefore must abide by the guidelines set by the California State Department of the Interior for renovation and development. One of these requirements is that a new addition to such a building needs to be “highly compatible yet clearly different” from the original building.

Another reason the architects chose to differentiate the new buildings from the current building is because “to attempt to imitate [the original building’s] architectural features would be to pretend we had the same values and outlook the original architects did back in 1931, and the results would have neither authenticity nor integrity,” according to Jameson.

He adds, “By contrasting the new structures with the old we intensify the experience of moving between a contemporary architectural language and an historic one. This makes the campus a richer overall environment where tradition and modernity engage and respect one another.”


Why Now

Initial discussion for a Campus Plan started in 2010.  Director of Communications Christina McIntosh says that even back then the Board of Trustees knew that “we needed to be competitive moving forward, and that we needed these facilities.” When asked why this plan is so important for Archer now, McIntosh answered:

Just imagine what an even better education girls will receive when we have the facilities to truly support our programs. Why now? Because it should be done, it needs to be done, and girls deserve it.”

Head of School Elizabeth English adds,”We’re thriving programmatically, so why shouldn’t our students have access to what I would call basic facilities that kids at other schools have— public and private.”

English believes that these new facilities are necessary to the Archer community because “we spend a lot of money renting facilities and transporting kids to rented gyms and theaters. That troubles me because all of that money that we spend transporting kids is money that should be going into programs.”


 The Vision

Artist rendering of a renovated classroom. The official Archer Forward  website says, "Enlarging the size of the classrooms will accommodate the current academic programs and allow more space for multiple modalities, reflecting girls’ specific learning styles." Courtesy of archerforward.org

Artist rendering of a renovated classroom. The official Archer Forward website says, “Enlarging the size of the classrooms will accommodate the current academic programs and allow more space for multiple modalities, reflecting girls’ specific learning styles.” Used with permission from archerforward.org

“When the Master Plan is completed, Archer’s facilities will have grown from a single courtyard building to a campus of five buildings connected by beautifully landscaped plazas and gardens,” says Jameson.

When speaking about the physical appearance of the new buildings, McIntosh states:

Archer doesn’t do anything that isn’t done with a spirit of beauty and intent.”

Both English and McIntosh are excited to attend home games and see their Panthers succeed with the support of their peers cheering them on from the sidelines. English adds:

I’m just looking forward to being able to watch our students thrive in the midst of what will be an absolutely beautiful campus.”

Jordan Mamalakis ’19 says, “I am looking forward to having more comfortable classrooms because as much as I love our classrooms now, having more space will allow the classrooms most likely to get less hot and will allow me to have more desk space.  I am so excited!” 


 Challenges

According to English, the biggest challenge that the school has faced throughout this process has to do with the California Environmental Quality Act  (CEQA). CEQA is “a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.”

Under CEQA, the Archer community is required to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR). This 3,000 page document was published in early 2014 and outlined all the potential impacts on the environment the renovations might make—such as traffic, noise and air quality.

English says, “I’m an environmentalist, and I think it’s incredibly important to hold developers accountable for the impact that they have on their community or on the environment… [but] I think there is an unfortunate downside to CEQA. Money that is being spent on a 3,000 page report could be better spent.  For example, putting solar panels on a building.  I think there is a more efficient way to protect the environment and the community from development.  I feel pretty passionately that we need to reform CEQA and improve it.”

“However,” English adds, “I think [CEQA] is a great thing to give the community a voice.”

On development projects in Los Angeles, English comments:

I think particularly in Los Angeles these kinds of projects become highly politicized.  You have a situation where each side is basically running a political campaign against the other.  It’s not so much about facts, it’s about sound bites. I think that has been challenging for me as an educator who believes deeply in integrity, honesty and conducting business in a way that is honorable.”


Concerns and Resistance

There are groups of people who oppose this plan. On the Residential Neighbors of Archer website, one neighbor states, “Your plan, in my opinion, is too ambitious, too massive and way out of proportion with what is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood.”

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View of Aquatics Center from Barrington looking southwest. Used with permission from archerforward.org

The main concerns—as outlined on their website—are towards the environment, traffic, public safety, intensification of use, size, construction, aesthetics, noise, lights, dangerous precedents and outside use.

One of the concerns raised is that “moving the majority of the athletic activities onto campus, [will increase] the number of games and visitors coming into our area during peak traffic periods (3:30pm to 7:00pm).”

Another concern is that Archer will begin hosting extracurricular activities every day until 10:00pm, “requiring cars to enter and exit the campus onto Sunset Boulevard during peak hours.”

The site also states:

Archer’s preferred project will eliminate substantially all of the critical protections painstakingly negotiated in the school’s original Conditional Use Permit, without which Archer would never have received approval to operate in Brentwood.”

Since releasing the plans for Archer Forward two years ago, Archer has conducted extensive meetings to communicate with the greater Brentwood community about this plan. This includes discussion with the Brentwood Community Council, neighbors and other civic leaders. The school is working to respond and address the comments and concerns raised by the neighbors in their EIR. English says:

We are committed to continuing our discussions throughout the city review and approval process and are very open to incorporating further modifications to our project.  We expect that the final plan will be a consensus document that maintains the balance between meeting Archer’s core needs and addressing the concerns of our Brentwood neighbors.”


Moving Forward

Although many students will not be at Archer to experience the new campus, English encourages the student body to continue to support the plan.  She says, “It’s really about believing in more than just your own experience.  It’s about believing in this institution and understanding that others paid it forward so that you could be here, and thus you should pay it forward so that others can be here in the future.”

McIntosh adds that students should care and support the process because:

You care about girls and education.  And just because you’re [leaving], doesn’t mean that you are going to stop caring about empowering girls. That is what this is going to do.  This is going to continue to empower women and empower girls to be the best version of themselves and become leaders. Archer hopefully is your family, and you always want to better your family.”

5 Comments »

  1. beth gold May 28, 2014 at 10:50 AM -

    Excellent job Syd. Your article is well balanced, carefully researched and does a good job educating the community on all aspects of the campus plan. Not surprisingly, I especially like the quote you chose from the architect about creating a historical context for the blending of the new building with the old. Thanks for highlighting the way architecture reflects cultural values, traditions and purpose.

  2. Sarah Wagner May 28, 2014 at 10:29 PM -

    I love the way you found such a variety of quotes and explored so much of the project. Well done! I completely understand why many neighbors have an issue with Archer renovating due to the reasons you mentioned (noise, etc.) But echoing what Ms. Gold said, the architects seem to have a really strong respect for the history behind our campus. Again, great article!

  3. Mr. Robertson May 30, 2014 at 1:16 PM -

    Syd, I’d say you have definitely graduated to Advanced Journalism with this piece; it is nothing short of professional in quality. Congratulations on an incredibly well written article!

  4. Ron Stone May 31, 2014 at 5:07 PM -

    Fantastic job, Syd. This is such a well-researched and well-written story. I particularly like how you’ve used so many quotes to weave different voices into your story.

  5. Molly Rose January 30, 2015 at 2:40 PM -

    I really want Archer Forward to happen!! I also love this article and think that it’s so well written and I don’t have one bad thing to say about it!