LPA Design Studios has won an American Institute of Architects’ 2023 Architecture Award, the industry’s highest honor for a single project, for the design of TIDE Academy, a groundbreaking Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math public high school in Menlo Park, California.

The Architecture Award “celebrates the best contemporary architecture regardless of budget, size, style or type.” Only 16 projects were honored with the award in 2023.

The national award is the latest in a series of top design honors for TIDE, which has been praised for creating an array of indoor-outdoor learning environments on a tight urban site. The three-story campus earned the AIA Committee on Architecture for Education’s Award of Excellence in 2022 as well as a Coalition for Adequate School Housing Award of Excellence.

“TIDE was a wonderful collaborative experience focused on spaces that encourage student choice, critical thinking and inquiry-based learning,” said LPA Director of K-12 Kate Mraw. “These awards are validation from our peers that our work matters and it’s making a difference.”

LPA Design Studios’ K-12 team focuses on a research-driven, student-centric approach to school design. Over the past three decades, the K-12 practice has master-planned and designed projects for more than 100 districts, focusing on a collaborative approach to developing schools that support the whole student.

Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, TIDE Academy’s design reflects the entrepreneurial and innovative spirit of the tech companies headquartered around it. Sited about a block from the Meta headquarters, TIDE — the acronym stands for Technology, Innovation, Design and Engineering — serves Sequoia Union High School District’s vision of supporting career pathways and fostering connections with local institutions.

Designers focused on three types of learning that parallel different ways of working: collaboration, contemplation and concentration. The resulting environments are flexible, diverse spaces that support project-based learning, team teaching and interdisciplinary instruction. Think tanks and huddle spaces neighbor every learning studio. Operable walls, writing surfaces and a variety of collaboration spaces offer students choices for where and how to work.

“TIDE is a new type of school for a new era of learning,” said LPA Design Director Helen Pierce. “It’s a small school, intimately scaled, that invites collaboration and bolsters learning and working in ways that will make students innovators in life.”

On every level, outdoor and indoor spaces are designed to intertwine and work together. Classrooms and labs open to associated outdoor learning environments. Spaces can be used for brainstorming or experiments specific to the discipline, encouraging different groups to connect and work together on projects.

“TIDE is a great example of what can be achieved through an integrated design approach,” said LPA Director of Landscape Kari Kikuta. “Working together, in tandem, influencing each other in our individual focuses of building, site and interiors, resulted in an entire campus that supports the learner.”

TIDE was designed using the AIA’s Framework for Design Excellence as the foundation, taking a wide definition of sustainability to include health, wellness and community. Resiliency and sustainability were an integral part of the process. Through a combination of the building’s shape, exterior circulation and shading features, the project achieves a 67 percent reduction in energy use from the industry baseline. To compensate for the expected rise of storm surge levels, the academy was elevated above grade.

The AIA’s Architecture Award is different from other industry honors in that it celebrates design achievement regardless of the type or scale of the project. The honorees “show the world the range of outstanding work architects create and highlight the many ways buildings and spaces can improve our lives.”