Marin Country Day School Phase 1

Corte Madera, CA

CMG collaborated with Marin Country Day School and EHDD Architects on a master plan and design to provide a refreshed identity for the 50-year-old campus, nestled in a canyon on the San Francisco Bay.

CMG collaborated with Marin Country Day School and EHDD Architects on a master plan and design to provide a refreshed identity for the 50-year-old campus, nestled in a valley on the San Francisco Bay.

Beginning with the Master Plan, we studied the broader systems, ecological and human, that formed the 37-acre campus. The story of water’s interaction with this valley encouraged us to explore a number of ideas in the subsequent design: rainwater harvesting, greywater reuse, stormwater infiltration, and native stream restoration of the perennial stream running along the eastern length of the valley.

Throughout the campus, sustainable strategies are made visible to inspire students to think critically and propose solutions to environmental opportunities that we face. A perennial stream, once lined with concrete, was redesigned to reduce erosion, contain flood events, and restore hydrologic processes. The naturalized creek corridor now includes diverse riparian habitats with native planting. At the new Learning Resource Center, rainwater runoff stored in a cistern below the new Lower School playground is reused in the building’s heating and cooling system. Upper School rain runoff is filtered through a planted bioswale prior to entering the restored creek. The bioswale is spanned by bench-bridges for gathering opportunities embedded within the natural systems. At the Lower School playground, significant new open space and a play environment incorporate the adjacent, restored stream. The Lower School bioswale features “fantasy play plants” – money trees and corkscrew willows that have interesting seed pods and branches.

In addition to special attention to site hydrology, we salvaged materials from the existing campus for use in the new design. Old growth redwood timbers from the prior amphitheater were milled and re-used as seating elements in the courtyard and entry grove. 

The heart of the new campus landscape is the Step-Up amphitheater and courtyard, used by the school for daily assembly, classes, and the annual graduation “Step Up” ceremony. 

The project is one of the first LEED Platinum–certified schools in the United States.