West Coast Middle School

ARCHITECT B+H Bunting Coady Architects Inc.
LOCATION Anmore, British Columbia

The underlying goal of the new middle school design is to create an environment for learning that captivates the imagination of the students and actively encourages exploration and growth. The space intends to simultaneously stimulate teachers, staff and visitors through their experience within the school. The result is a design that creates a series of carefully considered, light-filled spaces which seamlessly integrate into the natural landscape.

 Understanding the manner in which children learn, interpret and discover our world provided the underlying methodology for the design of the new middle school which focuses on education through interaction. The result is a design concept which places emphasis on student exploration and provides a learning-based environment which has been conceived “through the eyes of the students.” 

The school takes the form of a U-shaped building where the two primary classroom wings and the centrally located library open onto a common elevated courtyard space. The connection to nature and specifically the adjacent forest creates a place where children learn to interact with their environment, while playing without structure or program. As a core philosophy, there is a belief that sustainability is ultimately achieved through education.

Inspiration for the building massing and formal architectural character of the new school has evolved by means of an abstracted derivative produced through interpretation of intrinsic geometry that is evident in the natural world. This is readily apparent in areas where receding mountain ranges vanish into obscurity as the foreground mountains remain backlit and left as a stark silhouette. The abstraction of these innate natural forms has informed the manner in which the building has been shaped and carved to receive natural daylight, and to respond to solar orientation and the environment, all while creating a diminutive building profile that recedes into the natural milieu. 

WF This project recasts the typology of the school and the environment that supports education. Building forms abstracted from and nested into a terraced natural setting, reconnecting student and teacher with the landscape. This would be a wonderful place to be a student or a teacher.

DN This school has a geometric composition that seems through its drawings to blend with the site, taking advantage of views and capturing natural light. The geometry creates these wonderful interior spaces, which seem to make for some great opportunities for learning environments. The presentation has a confidence and a muted quality that seems to reflect a design that is very thoughtful and sculpturally powerful, but in a quiet way. I think this will be a great school environment to contain and nurture the restless movement, boundless inquisitive energy, and the endless conversations and laughter of young students.

PS This is a promising composition whose ecological foundation does not get submerged beneath the predictable and easy-to-digest tropes of sustainable architecture. Rather, its disciplined and dynamic response to site and program appears to shape a pedagogical foray into a kind of hopefulness that is fitting not only of a generation of schools that is emerging, but of the optimism of architecture itself. Refreshingly devoid of the technical, formal and graphic stylistics of an environmental aestheticism, and delightfully confident in its expectation that architecture shapes futures, this project promises a response to ecology that is about site and experience as materials themselves. The qualities of health and ecology here form the building blocks of rich architectural experiences which, I expect, will contribute to pedagogical mandates and ideas about ecological stewardship in our public institutions for decades to come.

CLIENT Coquitlam School District No. 43
ARCHITECT TEAM Teresa Coady, Dwayne Smyth, Mike Wartman, Stephanie Gust, Dylan Durst, Keith Holmes, Justin Thompson, Ian Allmark, Daniel Dubugras, Michael Scarborough
STRUCTURAL CWMM Consulting Engineers Ltd.
LANDSCAPE Sharp & Diamond Landscape Architecture Inc.
INTERIORS B+H Bunting Coady Architects Inc.
AREA 5,400 m2
BUDGET withheld