The Nueva School Hillside Learning Complex


Founded in 1967, the Nueva School is an independent school serving more than 370 students from prekindergarten to the eighth grade. The school’s mission is to inspire passion for lifelong learning, foster social acuity, and develop the child’s imaginative mind, enabling students to learn how to make decisions that will benefit the world. The 33-acre campus, located in the semi-rural coastal hills of the San Francisco Peninsula, features a thriving coast live oak woodland ecosystem, a variety of dispersed structures and dramatic views of San Francisco Bay. The site is a former parking lot.


The school desired flexible new classrooms, a library and a student center that would support their vision of educational innovation and environmental stewardship. The architects sought to integrate advanced resource efficiency and carbon reduction within the broader language of contemporary architecture, providing practical and poetic connections between students and the world around them.


The 27,000 sf complex incorporates a wide range of design responses to program, site and biosphere, supporting the school’s mission by immersing students in the multiple layers of their environment on a daily basis.


The three buildings are carefully woven into the site’s topography and ecology, oriented to the mild climate tooptimize the benefits of utdoor learning, daylighting and natural ventilation. They cluster around an existing ridge and step with the natural slope, reducing excavation while linking user experience to the drama of the hillside and views beyond. Living roofs create 10,000 sf of new habitat for native bird and butterfly species.


The project stitches together the existing campus, creating a more cohesive campus experience that fosters community and creative interaction at many scales. The Plaza serves as a major new entry to the school, an outdoor classroom and a new community gathering space. The Student Center is both cafeteria and “band shell”, opening up to an amphitheater in warm weather. Site planning reinforces links to the Lower School downhill from the site. A variety of intimate indoor and outdoor spaces encourage informal gatherings and quiet study. Learning: The buildings promote personal inquiry and discovery by visibly telling their story – how they resist gravity and earthquakes, breathe, absorb solar energy, distribute information, and respond to the seasons. Strategically placed “X-ray” windows expose glimpses of pipes, conduits, and structure within the walls. Expressive of the semiarid climate, a man-made “arroyo” activates the Plaza, dramatically coming to life during rainstorms to direct stormwater from rooftop to dispersion below. Resource Efficiency: The project models environmental stewardship at many levels, striving to make the most with the least.

+ Simple building forms reduce material use and conditioned area

+ Project uses 69% less energy and 50% less water than a typical U.S. school of its size

+ 24% of project energy is provided by a student-monitored photovoltaic array

+ Project exceeds Title 24 by 32% and surpasses the 2030 Challenge for carbon reduction

+ Non-native Cypress trees were harvested on site and reused as screens and decks


Project Type


677 Harrison Street, San Francisco, 94107, United States

Related links


  • Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
  • Tim Griffith