French School Reveals Blast from the Past

Contributor: Swinerton Project Team   |   January 10, 2014
French School Reveals Blast from the Past

Located in Burbank, California, Lycee International de Los Angeles (LILA) opened its doors in late August to the school’s first students. A French-immersion school for 350 students in grades 6-12, the majority of classes are taught entirely in French. The new five-acre campus features a one-story, 38,000-square-foot, mid-century structure built in 1954 as the General Motors Training Center. While reviewing the original building permits, it was discovered that Swinerton had constructed an addition to the original building in the late ‘50s. Over a half century later, Swinerton Builders Los Angeles returned to transform the aging structure into a state-of-the-art educational facility.

A high-level tenant improvement project with a large structural component, existing spaces were renovated and seismically retrofitted. The original building was set up in somewhat of a classroom configuration, but a significant number of new walls had to be put in place to make it suitable for teaching. As part of the design, the school has very few hard ceilings. All systems are exposed, with the fire line painted a bright red to contrast with the black and white ceiling.

Apart from the structural component, the biggest change to the building involved the use of natural lighting. Dozens of skylights and solar tubes were installed, flooding the school with natural light. In all, there are 23 classrooms, four labs, an auditorium, an art room, a library, and two indoor sports rooms.

Although the space has been completely transformed, it still retains some of its past glory as a former GM facility. The floors were sealed in their current condition, revealing outlines of the building’s past use as auto shop rooms. The “archaeology of the building” also shows through in the new storefront windows. They used to be roll-up metal doors for bringing cars inside the shop bays, and one original door was left in place for the wood shop class. Its old character is evident on the auditorium stage as well, where a large yellow barn-style door sits at stage left facing the alley. GM’s newest models were brought through this door under the cloak of secrecy, using the school’s existing stage to display these vehicles for employees’ eyes only.

Félicitations! (congratulations) to the entire project team for doing an A+ job!

-By Mark Rafferty, Daryl Cruser & David Slomanson