Sitting on the site of the former Ambassador Hotel, a location made famous by countless film shoots and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, the RFK Learning Center opened its door this month to welcome over 4,000 students. This comprehensive K-12 campus is the first of its kind for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the nation’s second largest district. Closing the chapter on 9 years of complications, the complex is now home to six pilot schools.
The grouping of buildings foster separate school identities and specialized education, while the larger campus setting promotes a sense of community. Designed by Gonzalez Goodale Architects, the schools include: New Open World (NOW) Academy, UCLA Community School, Ambassador School of Visual Arts, Ambassador School of Global Leadership, Ambassador School of Education, and the High School of Performing Arts. The educational community is linked by shared common areas, such as soccer fields, a swimming pool, two gymnasiums, and the library.
The campus also houses California’s first thermal displacement ventilation system, which delivers air from the lower portion of the walls, rather than from the ceiling. The upward flow of air is a more efficient form of air-cooling, and also improves air quality and reduces germs. The glass curtain wall facade of the high school building floods classrooms with natural light.
Construction and design were complicated by the site’s rich history, with preservationists calling for the existing hotel to be integrated into the new complex. Ultimately, the hotel was razed, with the new building’s architecture echoing the graceful lines of the Ambassador. Other prominent historic features, such as the Cocoanut Grove nightclub, have been re-created. RFK’s legacy is also honored in a series of murals as well as inspiring quotes etched in a sandstone installation.