2019—J. Frank Dobie High School Ninth Grade Campus

Pasadena ISD—J. Frank Dobie High School Ninth Grade Campus
Architect: IBI Group, Inc.

After years of overcrowding at the main campus, a new two-story 174,344 SF facility was designed to house the freshman class with future expansion in mind. The focus was to provide a welcoming place for incoming students to adapt to the high school environment until the transition to the main campus for the sophomore year. Both the exterior and interior design provides a connection to the main campus, ensuring that the strong school spirit would continue to resonate at the ninth grade facility.


The design is tailored to remove barriers and meet the evolving needs of ninth grade students with purpose, engagement and to provoke a feeling of excitement as their high school career begins. A large secure courtyard and various multi-purpose spaces encourage cross-collaboration. The second floor flex area has exposed structure and clerestory windows that flow into the adjacent library, connecting the two learning environments together allowing for passive supervision from teacher work areas.


Adjacencies were intentionally planned to share functionality with the main campus, eliminating the need to provide a full theater, auxiliary gymnasiums, specialized classrooms and competition football field and tennis courts. Larger, multi-purpose spaces can be adjusted to serve multiple functions while compact collaboration areas add value through flexibility, linked learning and shared use. Energy efficient A/C units and durable, low-maintenance materials reduce life cycle maintenance costs.


The building orientation exploits natural daylighting while minimizing solar heat gain. Large overhangs cover the two-story curtainwalls at the entrance, library and cafeteria, and shading devices are utilized on the west-facing elevation. A high-efficiency envelope and interior optimizes energy performance by low-e glazing, cool roofing, LED lighting, high-performance HVAC, low VOC paint and low-maintenance finishes. The learning courtyard is a low operational cost and connects to nature.


The design of the building purposely reflects the values and direction of the community through a setting inspired by materials and artwork similar to the main campus and District. Graphics integrate community and school heritage and are displayed as passive learning opportunities. Common spaces accommodate District and community functions. The collaborative approach to design involved students, staff and community members to voice ideas and take ownership of the planning process and design.


Pre-design included charrettes, visioning and site visits with the Design Committee. Planning for every kind of student was imperative to the learning environments and supported pedagogy. The interactive planning process established the vision and created a consensus of support around the space list, site layout and direction of the design through various mapping activities and stakeholder input. The building was sited with future expansion in mind and facilitates future program growth.

School Transformation

This facility was designed for flexibility. Mobile casework encourages informal and collaborative learning spaces throughout the school expanding the learning environment beyond the traditional classroom. A large, technology-rich central flex area allows students to choose the furniture, tools and resources that best suit their learning style. Two smaller collaboration spaces in each academic wing provide a space for reflection or social interaction with fellow students.

Stars of Distinction Star of Distinction Category Winner