Wiseburn Da Vinci Schools


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For the past 100 years, the school system for the Wiseburn city school district in Hawthorne, California, has been limited to serving students in grades K-8

The Project

For the past 100 years, the school system for the Wiseburn city school district in Hawthorne, California, has been limited to serving students in grades K-8. Frustrated after several thwarted attempts to unify with neighboring districts, the community eventually began to seek alternative options to create a charter high school option for the community’s teenage children

Vince Madsen, Director of Facilities Planning for the school district, found a vacant $47 million, 336,000-square-foot, four-story office building in nearby El Segundo that was large enough to house three separate schools under one roof—a science school, a communications school, and a design school, each with their own principals and funding sources. The building also offered a progressive college-like atmosphere for high school students that would mirror the real-world office environment the students would eventually occupy in the workforce. Yet, for a teaching environment, the building also presented challenges, including massive floor plates with a lack of transparency and no classroom-scaled, semi-enclosed spaces conducive to learning in small groups.

With the charter school’s project-based, collaborative approaches to learning, however, the expansive structure had the right scale and bones to accommodate the three 550-student high schools, now collectively known as Wiseburn Da Vinci Schools, with room to grow. And outfitted with flexible, durable, cost-efficient furnishings from Teknion, it also offers teachers the ability to adapt their teaching environments for different types of hands-on learning.

As the design of the physical environments took shape, the client and design team simultaneously explored a variety of furnishings to serve its diverse teaching needs.

To re purpose the building for its new use, Gensler started with some creative re configuring to give it the transparency and flexibility the individual schools needed. 

the response

To re purpose the building for its new use, Gensler started with some creative re configuring to give it the transparency and flexibility the individual schools needed. Among other changes, two bays of the building were demolished to improve day lighting and to right-size the floor plates to the budget. An atrium was also inserted that interconnects the floors and brings daylight in from above.

With the structure thus retrofitted for its new use, the architects proceeded to create a variety of large and small open and semi-enclosed spaces within the open-plan floor plates, including teaching spaces that allow for a good deal of flexibility in how classes are conducted and break-out spaces that offer a high level of autonomy for how students learn. Transparency allows everyone to see and be inspired by the projects and activities underway while also allowing for adult supervision. And while each of the top three floors is dedicated to one of the three schools that occupy the structure, the lower level houses common areas, conference rooms, and faculty office areas that allow students from all three schools to cross circulate and mingle.

As the design of the physical environments took shape, the client and design team simultaneously explored a variety of furnishings to serve its diverse teaching needs. After evaluating several manufacturers’ offerings, Teknion’s Thesis tables and Nami chairs were deployed in all of the 24 or so classrooms and many of the common areas on each floor. Office spaces were also fitted out with the same Teknion furnishings used in the teaching spaces.

“They liked that the Thesis tables could be delivered at both tall and standard heights so they could mix and match them to suit their own formula,” says Tony Smith, District Manager at Teknion in Los Angeles. “Most classroom tables have a classic T-leg, but Thesis tables have a pair of legs at each end, so students can also utilize all sides. This leads to a more collaborative environment,” he adds. The tables were specified in a white laminate finish to create a sense of unity throughout the school, and some are on casters so they can easily be pushed together or rolled out of the way as needed. The tables were also fitted with hooks on their undersides so students can stow their backpacks and book bags yet keep them readily available.

Teknion’s Nami chairs turned out to be the ideal seating choice for several reasons, not least of which was their durability. “Chairs in high schools take a beating, and since kids often lean back in their chairs and bend the frames, the Nami chair’s sled base gave it the durability they needed for sturdiness,” says Smith. At the same time, they’re light enough to move around and stack with ease. They also come in both standard and counter heights to accommodate the varying heights of the tables. Teknion’s ability to customize the chairs to reflect each school’s color was an added bonus. “Gensler gave us Pantone chips—green for the science school, purple for the design school, and blue for the communications school—and our manufacturing facility custom made the injection-molded chair seats to match them,” adds Smith.

The Wiseburn Da Vinci Schools facility has also served as a test case study that other charter schools are now relying on as a model in developing their own environments across the country.

the products

Thesis Tables

Designed to address today’s evolving learning trends by being highly configurable and complementary to almost any space, Thesis tables can be used to create collaborative spaces for group work or conversational applications or pulled apart for independent work. They are also available with a large range of accessories to help facilitate new work styles and technologies.

Nami Chairs

With its sleek, lean design inspired by the beauty of a cresting wave, from which its name is derived, the European-designed Nami stacking chair features a sculpted back with a gentle, controlled flex that moves with the user’s body to provide comfort for extended periods. Its smaller scale makes it ideal in training and conference areas, auditoriums, and classrooms. The chair comes in both standard and 36-inch counter-heights that can be used with tables and surfaces of different heights..

Qui Ottomans

Designed by renowned Italian architect and industrial designer Monica Armani for Studio TK, the Qui Collection ottomans were designed to address the increasing need for versatility and adaptability in workplace and learning environments. Available in small, medium, and large sizes, the ottomans can be used or together, and moved around in various combinations to form comfortable spaces for socializing, collaborative work, or even privacy. Combining high design with technological rigor, the upholstered elements feature simple, comfortable cushions and integral electrical cabling to provide power to mobile devices.

Variable Seating

Variable multi-purpose seating provides a common chair for varied applications, at a competitive price value. Designed by Alessandro Piretti, Variable is ideal for informal spaces where reconfiguration is encouraged, yet durability and style remain essential. Variable applications extend beyond the corporate office to education, retail, hospitality, healthcare and recreational markets..

Sabrina Chairs

Sabrina is an infinitely classic—yet modern—mesh-back task chair. Sculptural in frame and profile, it features an innovative ring-shaped backrest for both fit and flexible comfort. The inner ring provides support and accommodates backward bending in the body’s natural position, while the outer frame gently twists to either side for extra flexing..

District Systems

District puts a new spin on systems furniture with desks, cabinets, windows and walls that suggest the classic styling of midcentury modern design. District’s long, low lines, layered surfaces and refined scale make these pieces remarkably transparent, so you can pack maximum utility into a smaller footprint without feeling crowded. Products serve multiple functions, making the most of smaller spaces. Credenzas and storage support worksurfaces and define work zones, while overlapping planes and under-surface storage optimize vertical and horizontal space.

Spectrum Sofas

The Spectrum lounge series meets traditional workplace and education needs but also covers new ground in planning, problem-solving and aesthetics. The Spectrum sofa divides space and defines zones with the ability to run for an infinite span. Individual pieces can also be configured to create islands. The end armrests support the use of tablets and laptops, while loose armrests flip to reveal a hard surface for writing or work tools.

Height-adjustable bench

The Height-Adjustable Bench gives users individual control of their work and movement. A wide product scope allows sit/stand height adjustability to be easily integrated into bench planning environments.


Fractals seating group was conceived with two important criteria in mind: to support the individuals and groups in open and collaborative environments, and to provide a modular program that, in its articulation, creates a new level of planning.


Zones is a comprehensive series of furniture products that transforms offices and classrooms, challenging convention and changing the way people experience work. It includes seating, tables, screens, easels and accessories, as well as semi-private enclosures that can act either as an intimate collaborative setting or as a place of retreat when privacy is desired. Zones’ breadth of offerings cross multiple categories, but boast a consistent design language that make it unique.

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