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School Master


When Concord’s De La Salle High School needed a facelift, Walnut Creek resident Dan Wetherell was the man for the job. Wetherell, 46, a former UC Berkeley football nose guard, now tackles extreme makeovers on schools throughout the Bay Area. An architect at Ratcliff, an Emeryville firm, Wetherell has also led renovations at the Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek (pictured), the Athenian School in Danville, and Livermore High.

Q: What aesthetic elements do you include in a renovation?

A: We use design touches on each campus to establish the school’s identity and respond to its educational mission. For example, at Seven Hills, we used different colored floor tiles and casework in each classroom so the students could visually sense a change as they graduate from one grade to the next. The pattern for the floor tile was inspired by a fifth grader’s homework assignment on patterning.

Q:  What are the keys to good school design?

A: We try to retain the original design essence of the school while adding a new and innovative look.

Q:  We also look at creating healthy spaces with a lot of light and ventilation in classrooms. How involved are the students?

A: I’ve found that students are more concerned about functional space as opposed to the design process. They want a space that is easily accessible and has amenities, such as plenty of places to plug in their computers.

Q:  What are some of your recent school renovation projects?

A: We just broke ground at De La Salle High School in Concord for the first phase in a 20-year master plan that will include a 19,000-square-foot student center. At Athenian School in Danville, we recently completed a master plan that included the relocation of the library to the center of the campus, creation of a new performing arts building, and the development and reconfiguration of the middle school. The middle school buildings are now configured around two courtyards intersected by a meandering path, giving the middle school students a place of their own and creating a whole new sense of identity and place.


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