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CEE Sustainability Master Plan
West Hollywood, CA


Mark Rios
Jennifer Schab
Samantha Harris
Clancy Pearson
Brooke Woosley
Ananda Kantner
Chris Adamick


Long before humans and their automobiles paved over it, the Los Angeles basin was a wetland for the Santa Monica mountains. Centuries of urban development have done little to alter this natural pattern. Today, snowmelt continues to run in astounding quantities to the Pacific Ocean through underground watersheds and storm drains.

Our Master Plan for the Center for Early Education unearths the story of that underground water flow and turns it into an opportunity to educate students about their environment. This West Hollywood primary school is inextricably linked to its ecology. It’s situated on La Cienega Blvd.—cienega means swamp in Spanish—and must pump out 4,000 gallons daily just to keep its subterranean garage from flooding.

To connect students with the school’s unique place in the watershed, we borrowed 100
gallons from that underground flow and diverted it to a giant collection tank in the garage. We then exposed all the pipes, pumps, controllers, and emitters involved in using that water to irrigate plants. Storyboard graphics throughout campus engage students by posing questions and suggesting experiments in fun and friendly ways.

Because the school has almost no ground available for planting, we greened unexpected, but highly visible surfaces like walls and stairs. We carpeted the school’s front entrance in California coastal and exotic vegetation typically found in the surrounding community, creating a vertical jungle. For the school’s central staircase, which ascends to dramatic rooftop views of the mountains, we suspended native plants in an innovative system of Woollypockets: pouches that hang like aprons from the side of each step.