Orville Wright Middle School | Los Angeles Conservancy
Orville Wright Middle School
Photo courtesy Architectural Resources Group

Orville Wright Middle School

Los Angeles saw an enormous population explosion in the postwar period, leading to a dire situation for the Los Angeles Unified School District's schools: there were far more students than there were classrooms in which to teach them. Thanks to funding from several school bond measures, the LAUSD embarked on an ambitious construction program to provide more schools all over the region.

The designs created for the school building program came from a variety of talented architects, and very few were used more than once, but they all followed basic design guidelines drawing on modern ideas about the ideal school. They followed tenets of the International Style with horizontal orientations, ribbon bands of windows, and flat or nearly flat roofs, and they emphasized outdoor space.

The design that architects Sumner Spaulding and John Rex created for Westchester High School, which later became Orville Wright Middle School, took all of these guidelines and turned them into a spectacular example of a Mid-Century Modern school. The campus features a series of pavilion-like buildings arranged around courtyards, allowing for free indoor-outdoor flow. A large auditorium and unusual circular cafeteria both open to a central courtyard. This campus is a wonderfully intact and very vibrant testament to the power of good "design for learning."

Photo by Adrian Scott Fine/L.A. Conservancy

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