March 24, 2014
by Canadian Architect
Founded in 1932, York House is a leading independent K-12 day school for girls with a campus that occupies an entire block in the heart of the Shaughnessy residential neighbourhood of Vancouver. York House is a forward-looking institution that encourages a sense of leadership, community and environmental stewardship.
Vancouver-based Acton Ostry Architects were commissioned to design a new Senior School on the greater York House campus, and their response is a strikingly handsome building that provides a strong presence and new entry point for the campus through a soaring glazed portal, circulation crossroads and atrium space that connects the south, north and east wings of the existing school. The addition includes 36,000 square feet of classrooms; administrative and service spaces; social locker zones and lounge areas for students in Grades 8 through 12. Innovative, progressive and collaborative state-of-the-art learning and teaching spaces are adaptable and flexible, with spaces and places for informal student and teacher interaction throughout the day.
The composition and hierarchy of the primary west-facing entry elevation is stepped back at the third storey, creating an extensive balcony that reduces apparent scale and relates to the horizontal data of the adjacent north and south wings. Vivid, wood-finished vertical sunshades at the west and east elevations provide solar shading and accentuate the striking presence of the building on the street and to the campus.
Senior and junior students access the York House campus through a landscaped forecourt featuring a variety of outdoor seating and gathering areas. The area adjacent to the entry will be planted with white roses – the emblem of the school – and the threshold to the school entry is inscribed with the school motto “Not For Ourselves Alone” reinforcing the school’s value of the greater community. Rain gardens flank the main entry and a gently flowing fountain provides a calm and soothing setting. The coloured glass, steel and wood entry portal provides weather protection, clearly marking the primary access to the campus.
Junior students pass through the skylit atrium crossroads, which features several terraced social and informal study spaces, on their way to other areas of the existing school. The central atrium space connects the Senior School to the existing north and south wings though a generous daylit concourse, creating dynamic interactions throughout the school day, as well as a unified circulation system for the campus as a whole. Finish materials are simple and spare with a palette of textured concrete, wood, glass and stone used throughout the facility. The donor recognition program features the names of thousands of famous women, selected by the students that are screen-printed onto the myriad of glass guards delineating the circulation routes throughout the central atrium crossroads.
For more information on York House Senior School, please visit www.actonostry.ca/projects/yhs/.
york house senior school front elevation. photo by michael elkan.
interior of york house senior school with atrium. photo by michael elkan.