GDB’s San Rafael campus gets a makeover

I feel blessed that I was able to attend class in the old historic building before this exciting new venture takes place!


May 26, 2010

Design by Starkweather Bondy Architecture Receives Final Planning Commission Approval

San Rafael, California–Guide Dogs for the Blind (GDB), a non-profit serving people who are blind or visually impaired throughout the United States and Canada, has unveiled the new design of its headquarters. Located on the site of its existing 11-acre campus in San Rafael, California, the new facilities designed by Starkweather Bondy Architecture received final planning approval on April 27.

Founded in 1942, Guide Dogs for the Blind provides Guide Dogs and training to nearly 350 individuals annually and supports a community of 2,200 graduates. After 68 years of operation, the non-profit organization sought to build a new campus that better supports its students as well as the organization’s community education mission.

Starkweather Bondy reorganized the campus in anticipation of the future SMART rail line, moving the Student Residence Building to the quieter north edge of the property, with a further buffer provided by the location of parking and the Welcome Center.

Nestled in a stand of redwoods, the Residence Building is the heart of the campus for Guide Dog students. Nineteen private suites set around a courtyard with an enclosed area where dogs can play off leash support the guests’ training. Classrooms along with a dining room and lounge, which open to a second courtyard, complete this unique living/learning environment.

The Welcome Center includes a small multi-use auditorium (a sheltered space for graduations and dog training in inclement weather), an interpretive center and administrative offices. The Event Plaza, a multipurpose landscaped commons set between the two main buildings, further expands the campus’ capacity for social, educational and community activities.

The buildings’ folding forms and simple materials merge with the landscape, creating a serene and comforting setting that fosters learning. Deep roof overhangs, layers of glass, and day-lit corridors provide transparency and natural ventilation. The project will be built to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver standard.

GDB President and CEO Nancy Gardner said, “We will be celebrating our organization’s 70th anniversary of service with a vision for the future. By providing a modern learning environment for our students and enhancing our community education programming, the new campus represents an exciting chapter in the growth of our organization and will allow us to continue the legacy of our mission for years to come.”

Groundbreaking for the new campus is slated for Spring 2011; it is expected to open in Fall of 2012. The organization’s operations will continue during construction. For more information, visit

About Starkweather Bondy Architecture
Starkweather Bondy Architecture is an architectural, interiors and planning firm located in Oakland, California. The firm was established in 2001 by Phred Starkweather and Bill Bondy with a commitment to creating inspiring buildings and spaces for community-serving institutions. A leader in the design and planning of educational facilities, Starkweather Bondy Architecture’s diverse portfolio includes theaters, recreational facilities, libraries, and classroom buildings, as well as commercial offices and custom residences. The firm’s recent projects include the new Oakland School for the Arts within the historic Fox Theater in downtown Oakland, and a flexible, modular construction system for emergency housing, medical facilities and schools.

About Guide Dogs for the Blind
Guide Dogs for the Blind is a community dedicated to providing people who are blind with the opportunity to experience what a powerful partnership with a Guide Dog can mean – not only to mobility, but to quality of life. Established in 1942 to aid blinded veterans of WWII, the organization offers its services free-of-charge and receives no government funding. The school is committed to matching each person with the right dog, developing a personalized training program matched to each person’s lifestyle, and providing unprecedented support services to establish a true life-long partnership.

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One Response to GDB’s San Rafael campus gets a makeover

  1. Very exciting – love that campus! Have you heard about the celebration to be in September at the campus? I just posted about it on my blog.

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