Schools of the Sacred Heart

San Francisco, California // 2013


The Schools of the Sacred Heart in San Francisco is a collection of four schools within one learning community that weaves academic excellence, spiritual values, and a commitment to single sex education in a co-educational context. As Sacred Heart looked for ways to embody their values and implement their latest strategic plan, TheThirdTeacher+ team used the physical environment to help transform their organization and culture. 

We began by stepping back from a traditional master planning exercise to instead focus on a process rooted in strategic alignment and opportunity mapping. After an immersive insight week, working group meetings, and deep study of Sacred Heart’s historical and urban context alongside their organizational goals, we synthesized a collection of driving of patterns to help us understand their community.  We translated these patterns into a collection of projects –– small projects to catalyze change quickly and big idea projects to inspire innovative thinking. 

In the summer of 2013, we identified a “quick win” project to embody the change their community was striving for. We designed a new learning center and social heart in their all-girls Convent High School. This project created momentum as they began the implementation of their strategic plan and empowered young women and their teachers to reflect, collaborate, connect, and celebrate together more effectively. This project is the foundation of a series of transformative prototypes, projects, and planning to create a more innovative and excellent Sacred Heart.

How can design empower a spiritual learning community as they evolve into a more integrated and innovative organization? 

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