Canadian Architect

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Thomas L. Wells Public School

December 1, 2005
by Canadian Architect

Architect Baird Sampson Neuert Architects

Location Scarborough, Ontario

Thomas L. Wells Public School is designed as a terrain for engagement with learning, society and the environment. The classrooms are grouped around courtyards, a central library, and a multi-purpose room, maximizing green space on the compact site and providing a transparent, stimulating place of growth for young learners as well as a sense of civic community for surrounding residents.

Conceived as a “system of systems,” the building integrates architectural design with environmental performance. Classrooms are laid out to maximize solar exposure and their faades are designed for daylighting effectiveness and solar control. Light shelves shade high summer sun and reflect low winter sun deep into the building. A combination of high and low window vents provides effective passive ventilation as an alternative to mechanical cooling, and sensors turn off unneeded classroom lights. The precast concrete floor and masonry structure provide thermal mass to harvest winter solar energy and retard summer heat buildup, and are an integral part of the unique displacement air ventilation and radiant floor heating system. Heat in the return air stream is recovered in the central plant along with free heat from bathroom and service room exhaust. Durable materials used throughout promote long-term sustainability as well as indoor air quality.

Ouellette: This solution owes its genesis to a variably embraced or dismissed notion that architecture can play an instrumental role in the education of children. While probably not driven by social theory per se, the Wells Public School is informed by a Dutch intellectual tradition that uses the plasticity of architecture to unite environmental forces, places for socialization and play, and places for pedagogical learning into one community-focused entity. Years ago I went to school in a learning factory. Here, the architects created an exponentially more successful notion of a learning environment.

Provencher: The architects have proposed a new way of approaching community and have demonstrated what a school should be; a place where community members can gather for learning and social activities. The plan emphasizes the importance of interaction between children and teachers, and each classroom is cleverly oriented to take advantage of a maximum amount of daylight and solar energy. It promises to be an inviting and warm institution, a school which many could only have dreamed of in the past.

Taylor: An admirable design that creates a rich variety of interior and exterior spaces for children and a public focus for a new community. This project breaks free of the traditional finishes and systems that have been mandated up to now by the Toronto District School Board and sets a new model for environmentally responsible design by school boards.

Client Toronto District School Board

Architect Team Barry Sampson, Jon Neuert, Seth Atkins, Geoffrey Thun, Yves Bonnardeaux, Mauro Carreno, Ian Douglas, Gregory Reuter, Colin Ripley, Mcmichael Ruth, Andria Vacca, Mark Martin, Nene Stout

Structural Blackwell Bowick Partnership Ltd.

Mechanical Keen Engineering Co. Ltd.

Electrical Mulvey and Banani International Inc.

Landscape Elias + Associates Inc.

Interiors Baird Sampson Neuert Architects

Contractor Struct-Con Construction Ltd.

Area 71,194 Ft2

Budget Pending




Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect

Canadian Architect is a magazine for architects and related professionals practicing in Canada. Canada's only monthly design publication, Canadian Architect has been in continuous publication since 1955.
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