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Frederick Fisher and Partners designs new hilltop Ojai Valley School Upper Campus
The three new buildings respect the existing campus architecture while also forming a village of minimal pavilions that connect the dynamic functions of learning, studying, and student living. Photo: Logan Hall, for Ojai Valley School.



LOS ANGELES, CA.- Frederick Fisher and Partners announced the completion of three signature buildings at Ojai Valley School (OVS) Upper Campus, in Ojai, California. Designed and built to replace structures lost in the Thomas Fire four years prior in December 2017, the buildings are situated on a 195-acre site overlooking the Ojai Valley in Ventura County. The project embraces the scenic landscape while reflecting the kinds of resiliency practices necessary to responsibly inhabit the area. The OVS Upper Campus includes three new permanent structures totaling 37,000 square feet—the flexible Aramont Science and Technology Center, the Grace Hobson Smith House dormitory, and the Littlefield Student Commons dining and library complex—opening ahead of the 2021-2022 school year.

“OVS showed great resilience in transforming the tragedy of the Thomas Fire into a reimagination of the Upper Campus,” said Frederick Fisher, Founding Partner and Design Principal of the project. “We reset from our previous planning with the OVS community and seized this rare ‘blank canvas’ opportunity to create a functionally and aesthetically unified state-of-the-art learning, living, and gathering village interwoven with the extraordinary landscape.”

The 2017 Thomas Fire devastated the Ojai area and destroyed two buildings on the OVS Upper Campus site that included a building used for science and technology classrooms, as well as a student dormitory for the school. OVS’ desire to rebuild was immediate, and they had already been in consultation with FF&P in 2015 to develop a master plan to chart a course for future growth, considering qualities such as the site program, massing, and architectural character. Construction to replace the damaged buildings began in June 2018.




The three new buildings respect the existing campus architecture while also forming a village of minimal pavilions that connect the dynamic functions of learning, studying, and student living. FF&P recognized the importance of outdoor education to OVS’ pedagogy and curriculum and designed the Upper Campus with a central focus on indoor/outdoor interaction. In this aspect, all structures are organized around an identity that emphasizes the scenic surroundings as the primary active element, offering numerous moments where the buildings’ planes and interrelated profiles acknowledge the beauty of the natural surroundings. Each structure is designed and positioned to maximize sightlines as part of its hilltop location.

“We used a simple design language to create experiential variety,” said Takashige Ikawa, Partner and Design Lead. “Every time you come here, you'll discover something new—be it a view, a different lighting condition, or a sense of community and gathering.”

The single-story Aramont Science and Technology Center supports a growing science and technology curriculum with various single-story classrooms, labs, and maker spaces for science, technology, and the arts through an integrated indoor/outdoor profile. The two-story Littlefield Student Commons comprises a dining hall, library, and student center, creating a space used for special events, and with a second-story library with views over the Ojai Valley. The project also includes the new Grace Hobson Smith House dormitory for resident girls along with faculty apartments organized around its own courtyard.

Together, the Upper Campus project is anticipated to achieve LEED Gold status through a combination of passive cooling design, photoelectric power generation and a lithium-ion battery energy storage system that will dramatically eliminate CO2 emissions and allow the campus to operate off-grid during normal operations. The site has also been extensively fireproofed through the incorporation of flat roofs without eaves, plaster (stucco) finishes, enhanced sprinklers and improved site access, all of which are in accordance with Ventura County’s strictest guidelines for defensible landscaping. Road improvements have also been made to the Upper Campus allowing emergency vehicles easier access.

Project partners include Pamela Burton & Company as landscape designer, Encompass Consultant Group as civil engineer, Parker-Resnick as structural engineer, Nibecker & Associates as mechanical engineer, Nikolakopulos & Associates as electrical engineer, Webb as foodservice designer, Zinner Consultants for LEED and McGillivray Construction as general contractor.










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