Project Description

Client Objective:

The client is a Los Angeles based nonprofit called GOCARE. GOCARE works closely with Nicaraguan communities to create and implement youth and adult educational programs with 3,800 graduates to date. GOCARE leased spaces for their other learning centers prior to obtaining a sloped site within the underserved community of El Madrono. They would create a campus that would serve as an educational and communal resource for the local people with a library, classrooms, a computer lab, and a vocational classroom which could be rented out for events. GOCARE specified that outdoor classrooms, gathering spaces and a public amphitheater were important aspects of their vision.

Design Solution:

The topography of the site inspired a dynamic campus that will offer varied spatial experiences and social interaction each time you move through its bounded space. The smaller scale separate buildings step up the hill and surround an arcade and courtyard enlivened with outdoor classrooms, fruit trees and small gathering perches. Although the seven buildings are simply organized on an eight foot grid and based on the same structural section, there are subtle variations in orientation, length, and interaction with each other and the arcade.

Feature Highlight:

“We wanted to find ways to involve local craftspeople and realized that the wrought-iron screens between the buildings are a great opportunity for a variety of artisans to contribute their own designs,” says Sheri Olson, FAIA, “Accent colors on the doors and other elements are drawn from Nicaraguan folk paintings.”


Lynn Gaffney partnered with Sheri Olson, FAIA of Seattle, WA for the El Madrono Learning Campus. Lynn and Sheri have been friends since their masters program at Columbia University many years ago. For the past five years, they have enjoyed virtual meetings once a week to support one another’s architectural practice.
Sheri and Lynn both volunteered their services through a Seattle based volunteer group called Architects Without Borders in which Sheri has been active. Lynn hopes to bring Architects Without Borders to the vibrant Brooklyn, NY architectural community.

lga’s team:

Lynn Gaffney, Sheri Olson; 3D images were produced by Matthew Radune of Brooklyn, NY.