Studio W Architects led two separate committees through the process of designing this new school in an effort to build consensus in a collaborative manner throughout the District and community. The 53-acre site is surrounded by a community that will eventually be occupied with residential homes in the growing north side of Merced. The interconnected buildings wrap around a large central landscaped quadrangle that provides exceptional visual supervision. It also allows the public adequate after-hours access to the 1,400-seat gym, the 450-seat proscenium performing arts theater, the 300-seat cafeteria and the library.

The learning spaces were designed to convey an attitude of “student achievement” in a high quality, safe educational environment. Promoting collaboration within major disciplines, the horticulture, agricultural science and agricultural mechanics programs are located in their own wing. This curriculum integrates elements of the residential and commercial construction CTE pathways into a new and innovative program that is a model for other California high schools. The design features specialized agricultural science lab work areas, greenhouse and lath house areas for ornamental horticulture and additional shop areas for advanced agricultural and power mechanics.

Additionally, the school incorporates a culinary arts CTE program that includes a 1,200 square foot instructional lab and an adjacent 700 square foot full commercial kitchen. The District’s ProStart program, a two-year high school restaurant and food service preparation program, operates from this state-of-the-art facility. The goal of the ProStart program is to unite the classroom and industry to develop the best and brightest talent into tomorrow’s restaurant and food service leaders.

These CTE programs were designed to allow students to matriculate into the workforce in this Central Valley community as well as into the local community colleges and UC Merced.

The Aquatics and Athletics Complex is shared with the City of Merced through a joint-use partnership, yielding an additional $3.5 million in project funding and continued maintenance support. The Complex features a 25-yard by 25-meter pool, restrooms, locker and changing facilities, and was designed with both district and public access in mind. Situated in proximity to the primary athletic facilities, the aquatics program also allowed for ease of access after-hours and on weekends through special gates and fencing.

The sweeping curve of the main two-story building was designed to express the feeling of simple elegance to the community of Merced. It is designed as a Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) facility and was built with durable and energy efficient materials. One of the fundamental principles of the design: “if students are provided with a quality learning environment they will respond with pride, commitment and respect.”


Merced Union High School District


187,550 SF


$76.3 million


Completed 2013

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