Last year, Oculus Light Studio came upon the opportunity to work with a local Civil Engineering and Architecture high school class – and we jumped at the chance. We were first contacted by DaVinci Science High School teacher Andrew McGregor, who asked us to be part of a multi-disciplinary professional team. The team guided Mr. MacGregor’s 11th and 12th grade students through an onsite design-build project, covering the various fields of architecture, interior design, lighting, electrical and hands-on construction. What a great opportunity to get young people interested in the field of lighting.

8 by 20 ft trailer to transform into a mobile teaching and counseling center.

Their goal was to transform an 8 by 20 ft trailer into a mobile teaching and counseling center for RISE High (standing for Revolutionary Individualized Student Experience), a sister branch in the DaVinci Charter Schools serving the needs of homeless and foster youth whose education has been impacted.

Students collaborated with local architects.

The final design was the result of a series of “design charettes,” where students collaborated with local architects Gensler and Houston/Tyner. The main criterion for this traveling center was to have movable “parts and pieces”: flexible seating, multi-functional lighting, an operable partition door that opens the interior up to the exterior space to accommodate larger groups, an added stage for presentations, standalone planters that could be placed anywhere to decorate the entrances, and a portable stair and ramp for accessibility. This would provide maximum flexibility for adapting to individual needs of the different communities that it would be serving.

For this prototype, Oculus provided an easily implemented design of a concealed perimeter linear uplight, recessed linear task lighting at shelving, and suspended LED-filament lamps with adjustable cords. For the exterior the main criterion was “safety,” so small-profile, wall-mounted floodlights were placed around the perimeter to illuminate not only the entries and ramp but also the immediate surrounding areas.

Lighting was generously donated to the project

All the students were provided with tools and safety gear, so that they could start with building the main supporting structure of the trailer. They learned how to work together as a team, on top of gaining some general experience in the construction aspect of the project. Once that phase was completed, they were divided into smaller groups to concentrate on specific areas of interest that they selected themselves. For this prototype, the lighting was installed by Mr. McGregor with the assistance of a qualified professional. One of the goals for Phase 2 is to create a team of students who will be more actively involved in both the lighting design and installation phases.

We were actually making something that DaVinci RISE would actually use as a conference room.

We reached out to some lighting manufacturers and received great support from colleagues at Targetti USA and California Accent Lighting (CALI), who donated the linears and lamps, and WAC Lighting, who gave a generous discount on the exterior floodlights. Overall the integration of the lighting enhanced the architectural and interior design vision of the space, while creating an inviting and functional counseling center.

For me, knowing this center had been built by students for students was exciting, watching future generations encourage each other by creating a supportive space. It was rewarding to be a part of this project, knowing that kids who had already faced many challenges would have a place that felt warm and “homey” to go to for help and encouragement, and to learn. Students in the Civil Engineering and Architecture Class shared their thoughts on the experience and best memories throughout:

“The most remarkable experience I gained throughout the project was the bond I forged with my peers. Working with my peers on a task that benefits others is something that can’t be described in words, and I’m so thankful I got a placed in CEA.” – Eric Banuelos
“Now that the project is completed, my most favorite part was being able to see the final completed tiny house. Being able to see it completed showed how much work we had put into the project. It’s also very amazing that we had pretty much started and completed the tiny house all in under 5 months.” – Kenney Lee
“Working in a team was initially weird, since I didn’t want to work in a team originally. Yet, as time passed, I had realized I had begun to appreciate my team. What one person couldn’t do, another person could, which made the team dynamic. Yet, I also grew closer emotionally to the team; spending hours with a team makes them feel like family. The building became a second home due to the team, and that’s something I’ll always be grateful for.” – Isaac Mendoza
“When the walls were finally put up – that was when I realized that we were actually making something that DaVinci RISE would actually use as a conference room, and not just some project that we were doing that would be useless at the end of the year.” – Shauna King

Oculus looks forward to being part of the team again for DaVinci RISE 2 this year, where our role will entail more mentorship and teaching the students how to approach and design the lighting in the space themselves. I have worked on many types of projects, but this one was very special in the way it connected our profession with our community, and future generations.

Carolina Prendergast

About Carolina Prendergast

Carolina Prendergast has 16 years of experience in award-winning architectural lighting design. She is a senior associate at Oculus Light Studio where she manages projects from schematic phase through design development and construction administration. Her joy in the value lighting brings to each space, and in the lighting process (particularly a deadline well met), makes her a valuable member of the Oculus team.

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