The new Lord Kitchener elementary school on West King Edward between Collingwood and Blenheim streets marries an upgraded heritage schoolhouse circa 1914 with a newly constructed contemporary building and features an interior thats all modern by design.
Kitchener was profiled this month in Award magazine, a publication about sustainable architecture, construction and interior design.
Architect Peter Lang from the firm IBI/HB Architects, which worked on the project, said the schools design was guided by 21st-century learning principles.
The existing school model that everyone is functioning with is one that was developed in the 19th century, so the idea was to bring the educational delivery model up to date with where we are in the 21st century and looking into the future, Lang said.
The main difference is the way rooms are organized and the way learning is expected to happen. Several classrooms are grouped together in learning communities and the size of each room can be changed by raising or lowering a garage door or opening or closing sliding doors or glass walls, depending on whats being taught or what activities are taking place. The flexible classrooms become a resource for the group of teachers sharing the spaces.
You then put the teachers in a collaborative teaching office so they can plan their lessons together and actually allocate the space based on the kinds of lessons that theyre actually doing at any one time during the day, Lang said, adding some teachers were initially uncertain about the design concept but theyve since embraced it.
The school features a community commons area at the entrance, where parents can drop students off and meet one another. It also serves as a gathering space for the entire school, and can be used as performance space.
The old schoolhouse was relocated and positioned so the floors between the old and the new buildings lined up to create an integrated space.
The architecture of the whole was really to try to respond both to [the idea] that theres something very new happening on this site, which is very different from what had happened before and what is happening in other schools, more traditional schools, and also to show respect for this heritage building, Lang said.
So we pushed the heritage building out front so it had prime view from King Edward and the new building sits as kind of a backdrop to that. We also used slightly stronger colours, more playful colours, to respond to the playfulness that children need in an elementary school.
Natural wood was used on the exterior of the new building [and on features within it] to add warmth and beauty, and to comply with the provincial Wood First Act, which requires that wood be considered as a first choice when building publicly funded projects.
Another consideration was ensuring the school fit into the community in which its located. This building would not be considered a downtown urban kind of architecture. Its much more reflective of its single-family neighbourhood context, Lang said.
Lang maintains public buildings should reflect the best of our culture, but that idea fell apart sometime between the 1950s and the 1970s when there was more of an emphasis on absolute utilitarianism and design got lost in the process.
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