Northern Light (August 01, 2001)

Taking its cues from a free-spirited community in Yellowknife, Guy Architects’ design for cole Allain St-Cyr French Immersion school is characterized by bold elements, bright colours and dramatic lines. The building sits adjacent to William MacDonald School and also houses a meeting place, a francophone library and Plein Soleil, a French day care centre. As such, the building will accommodate many cultural events for Yellowknife’s francophone community.

Located on a narrow site sloping downward from north to south, cole Allain St-Cyr is modelled spatially after the old cities of French Canada. Interaction in the space is fostered through an emulation of squares and narrow streets, which encourage impromptu meeting and conversation outside of the formal curriculum.

Spatial variability is a key concept in the design, emphasizing interactivity among users. This is expressed by means of devices such as a moat-and-bridge motif at the main entrance, a three-storey high grand hall and niches off the main perambulation area. Large windows on the southwest side of these common spaces, which are designed to be easily monitored by teachers in the nearby classrooms, offer views of spruce and tamarack trees, bringing the experience of the outdoors into the building. In addition, the roof has been designed to allow use as a classroom.

A roof terrace for community meetings is located adjacent the community hall on the second floor of the rotunda. The hall is supplied with natural light from the glazed clerestory wall of the raised portion of the roof. Circular raked seating is a feature of the community hall, which converts to three multi-purpose classrooms and can host theatre in the round or in a proscenium configuration.

The school uses a gravity ventilation system, the first of its kind in Canada, which introduces low velocity fresh air through large diffusers onto the floor of the rooms. Radiant heating cast into the concrete floor slabs help address the needs of children with severe allergies. NM

cole Allain St-Cyr, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories

Guy Architects