We settled on two schools. And with this decision, the question of creating distinctive school experiences expanded to the site. After all, where we placed the schools, the fields, the playgrounds, the roads, would all contribute to how kids, parents, and staff would understand this notion of growing up in SD62.
A huge challenge was the site itself. Its irregular shape and a steep 40m-height difference across the property meant in-depth and ongoing collaboration with our civil, landscape, geotechnical, and structural consultants to come up with safe and feasible technical solutions that achieved our design vision. In the process of figuring this out, we also needed to understand what the community was going to look like in five years, 15 years, and 50 years. How would these schools set the tone for a neighbourhood that’s still emerging?
Along with site design, the two buildings needed to look similar yet different, in a way that indicates “each of us is unique, yet we’re part of the same family”. We talked visual language between disciplines: from architectural design to interiors to environmental graphics, how could we express the differences of elementary school and middle school through colour, geometry, and textures? These ideas were explored intensively between hcma‘s in-house architectural and interiors teams, our social and sustainability impact teams, and our communications design team. An interdisciplinary approach was crucial to leave no stone unturned.
With terrain being so prominent, the theme of “embedding learning and school memories into the landscape” emerged. We saw the schools as two geological forms anchored into the side of the hill, opening up towards the direction of Langford Lake and Bear Mountain. We linked the two buildings by a landscape spine that threads north-south across outdoor space and through the main indoor corridors of both schools. The spine is a walking path that makes the natural progression of growing up a direct experience, and is also an invitation to the larger community to access the site day to day.