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Children’s Day School Dolores Park

Reviving Gothic Revival

Maximizing indoor and outdoor space for the creative reuse of a neighborhood classic.

Mission Critical

Children’s Day School (CDS) is an independent school serving pre-kindergarten through middle-school students at its campus in San Francisco’s Mission District. The school’s integration into the urban fabric complements its mission of community-based learning, and over the years, Jensen Architects has adapted and renovated several of the school’s buildings to foster this connection. The historic church at 601 Dolores, just three blocks from its main campus, opened the possibility of CDS’s neighborhood presence with a new middle school. However, fitting the middle school’s space needs into this landmark building required some creative thinking.

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Sanctuary Site

As the Founders’ Hall the restored sanctuary remains the building’s most striking space. It serves as the heart of the new middle school and is spacious enough for the whole Children’s Day School family to come together. Where the alter once stood, a broad stage provides a platform for performances, assembles and regular classes. A new glass-walled study area on the second floor overlooks the hall, its full transparency playfully mixing up relationships among viewer and viewed. With its grand space more vibrant than ever, the school also has continued its role as a community gathering place.

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CDS 601 kids

Tinkering and Gardening

CDS encourages children to learn actively by doing, experiencing, interacting, and making. To accommodate such a vigorous pedagogy, each classroom also serves as a rough and tumble laboratory. Two natural science labs on the ground floor combine durable surfaces with state of the art equipment for research and experimentation. On the second floor, the Innovation Lab for Digital Arts provides flexible studio space for CAD/CAM creations, while a teaching kitchen facilitates culinary exploration. Some of the kitchen’s ingredients come from the school’s rooftop gardens where students grow fruits and vegetables.

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Shell and Bones

The original Gothic Revival-style church designed by Francis W. Reid in 1910 was a three-story unreinforced masonry structure with wood-framed floors. Its conversion to a school and the addition of a roof deck triggered a comprehensive structural upgrade of building, and these improvements along with interior renovations needed to respect the building’s historic features. A robust steel skeleton was fitted to the existing shell, with all its crooked and out-of-plumb walls. In the former sanctuary (now the Founders Hall), the engineering design stabilized and strengthened the existing structure without disturbing the historic wood ceiling.

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Children’s Day School
San Francisco


2017 CA Preservation Foundation, Rehabilitation Design Award
2016 AIA San Francisco, Citation Award


Project Leads
Mark Jensen
Laura Messier
Anthony Diaz
Project Team
Andrew Ballard
Frank Merritt
Ellen Fuson
Osma Dossani


Mechanical, Electrical & Plumbing
WSP Flack + Kurtz
Christopher VerPlanck
Rollo & Ridley
Martin M. Ron Associates
Gale Associates
The Shalleck Collaborative
Acoustic Arts & Engineering
A/V & Security
WSP Flack + Kurtz


Plant Construction Company


Cesar Rubio
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