A classroom with natural wood walls and large windows providing ample natural light. Three students are engaged in activities at their desks, with a teacher supervising them.

wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm Elementary School


Vancouver, BC

Formerly known as Sir Matthew Begbie Elementary School, wək̓ʷan̓əs tə syaqʷəm Elementary School is a 3,385 m2 school for School District 39 located on Kitchener Street in northeast Vancouver. The school includes a 414 m2 neighbourhood learning centre. The 1.4 ha site has three tiers: the existing school is located on the upper tier and the new school is located on the relatively confined middle tier with play areas located on the lower tier. A departure from conventional classroom design, the floor plan opens up circulation, eliminates narrow hallways and provides more common multi-functional space.

A glazed, double-height atrium runs down the center of the new building, forming the heart of the school and linking the east-facing playing field and the west-facing grounds. The result is a bisecting design unified by common space that encourages co-mingling and collaboration among students and teachers.

A modern school hallway featuring a staircase with integrated hexagonal wooden cubbies and seating areas where students interact.
A spacious gymnasium with high wooden ceilings and natural light streaming through the windows, with students playing a game. The gymnasium is entirely wooden, from top to bottom. Children run from one side of the gym towards an adult on the other side.
Entrance to a gymnasium with clear glass doors, through which a sports activity can be seen, and a boy at a sink where the bathroom opens up in a hallway with wood paneling.

The school has been designed with CLT structure and partitions to exceed the Wood First guidelines and to have exposed, warm, durable surfaces. The use of cross-laminated timber as the primary construction material for this project will be a flagship for the Vancouver School Board as one of the district’s first CLT schools. The timber will be exposed on both walls and ceilings within large areas of the building, providing a warm and inviting environment for students.

A number of design and prefabrication methods were used to speed up construction time and to minimize disruption to both the students and the neighborhood. Innovative and efficient hybrid systems have also been implemented to achieve the desired architectural form – creating a welcoming community building.

The new school has the capacity for 340 students in kindergarten and grades one through seven.

A bright and airy staircase in a modern building with wooden walls and wooden ceiling with white hexagonal panels. People are seen walking up and down the stairs, blurred in motion. Natural light streams through the curtain wall adjacent to the staircase.
A long, well-lit corridor in the school, with wooden walls and ceiling in the background and a metal railing on either side of the walkway. White hexagonal panels are attached to the ceiling. Blurred figures are passing through.

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