Woodside Priory
MBH Architects

Woodside Priory

MBH Architects as Architects

Just minutes away from the heart of Silicon Valley, Woodside Priory School is a Catholic Benedictine, independent college preparatory school nestled in the picturesque hills of Portola Valley, California. Founded on the values of spirituality, hospitality, integrity, individuality, and community, Woodside Priory sought the design expertise of Alameda-based architecture and design firm MBH Architects to conceptualize an on-campus housing building for their growing institution. 

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Situated atop a hill overlooking the 50-acre Woodside Priory Campus, the new residential building boasts filtered views of Windy Hill and Russian Ridge. Tucked among the existing grove of redwood trees and other on-campus residential buildings, the new facility seamlessly blends in with the surrounding landscape and community. The new site includes six units—four three-bedroom units and two two-bedroom units. The design team set up the two-bedroom units so that each bedroom has its own private bathroom. To provide all six units with breathtaking views of Spring Ridge, one central staircase connects all the units rather than individual staircases that would have potentially obstructed the views. The MBH team also accomplished this goal by placing the two-bedroom units adjacent to each other and the three-bedroom units immediately behind them. The living room windows all have direct views of the ridge. 

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On the ground floor, the remaining units have access to their own patios through the main bedroom. All second-floor units have decks featuring laser-cut dark bronze metal balcony railings with an arbor-like pattern. The site’s exterior features an open grass area that lines the building and connects directly to an existing faculty building—providing ample space for recreational activities to those that inhabit the units. 

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To give the residences a more cabin-like and resort aesthetic, MBH incorporated a wooden boardwalk from the parking lot to the building. To best coexist with the local redwood forest, MBH used gabled roofs made of corten steel—preventing debris build-up from the trees and allowing any branches to slide off easily. The corten steel also runs down the side of the building with a stucco base. The cement base differentiates the materials, and the corrugation of the metal creates some shade and shadow. Throughout the facility, all heavy timber used has concealed fasteners so that none of the metal is exposed—further enhancing that cabin-like appearance. The undersides of the decks have wood soffits. 

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Concerned about paint’s reflectivity and the materiality, city guidelines required the building to be cohesive with the surrounding landscape. With this in mind, MBH strategically incorporated the use of fire-resistant materials, photo-voltaic panels on the carport in the covered parking, as well as shielded exterior lighting. Additionally, the MBH team designed within the city’s guidelines for single-family housing, so this project would emulate a single-family home but contains six individual units. The new residential building meets Built It Green standards, with at least 10 percent over Title 24 energy compliance. The facility features stormwater retention onsite—a process that collects and routes stormwater to local bioswales.

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