St. Monica Parish is one of the largest and most active parishes in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The final piece of the parish master plan and development agreement with the City of Santa Monica was the Hilton Schoolyard, a redesign of the existing interior parking area made up of 130 spaces that for decades has doubled as a campus “quad” and play area for the 850-plus students, teachers and staff of the high school and elementary school on site.

The design principle of the Hilton Schoolyard is to alter the perception of a parking lot used as a schoolyard to a schoolyard that also functions as a parking lot. This approach provides students and their families with a sense of campus pride, identity and a new level of comfort. Additionally, the project adheres to the commitment by the parish to be a responsible, sustainable member of the community through increased green space, reduced heat island effect, flexible programming and storm water management.

The new design increases the existing landscape area of the 52,000 s.f. site by 75%, including planting areas with a palette of water conserving materials reflecting school colors and attractive to birds and butterflies. Increased planting areas reduce storm water run off and existing topography and drainage patterns were preserved to minimize the level of disturbance and debris during construction. The remaining run off is directed to an expansive, underground infiltration gallery that exceeds the Regional Water Quality Control Board requirements.

Concrete seat walls throughout the schoolyard bring children closer to plant materials. Active uses are centrally located for open circulation through the core of the schoolyard and access for all students, while allowing for primary vehicular circulation and parking. Colorful courts frame the central open space with asphalt coating materials used to define outdoor rooms. The surfacing materials exceed LEED requirements for heat gain and reflectivity for a more comfortable pedestrian environment.

Custom 15’ x 20’ x 15’ tall steel and fabric shade structures, designed by Duane Border Design, are placed in the parking area to increase shade coverage and create outdoor rooms for social and academic gatherings.

The redesign of the Hilton Schoolyard breathes new life into the daily experience of the St. Monica Parish Schools. Children are no longer secondary to practicality, and have an enhanced quality of life on a daily basis. The Hilton Schoolyard is a vibrant, active space matching the energy and commitment of the parish schools and its students while balancing the requirements of the parish and its environment.