Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Seabird Island School in Agassiz, Canada by Patkau Architects
April 24th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: Patkau Architects
Seabird Island is a large area of delta land in the Fraser River, seventy-five miles east of the Pacific Ocean. It is the home of the Seabird Island Band, a Coastal Salish community. Mountains of the Coastal Range tower over the river valley on all sides. The interior of the island is a large open field, which is used for agriculture. Houses ring the lightly wooded perimeter. At the downstream end of the island are community buildings loosely organized in a U around a grassed common space that is open to the north.
The aboriginal culture of the community strongly influenced the educational program, and consequently the organization and building form, of the school. To encourage interaction between school and community, the school is sited along the open, northern edge of the common space. Each classroom is directly accessible to students and teachers, as well as to parents and extended families, from a south-facing porch. Community members participate in classroom lessons regarding traditional language and subsistence skills. As in many small communities, the gymnasium is also a community hall for large public indoor events. The home economics classroom can also be used for public events: located along the porch, adjacent to the main entrance, it provides a kitchen for both indoor and outdoor community events and feast days.
The northern and southern aspects of the school differ in mass and scale. On the north, large sculptural closed volumes divert extreme winter winds, much like the surrounding mountains. To the south, the building is smaller in scale and open under generous eaves. Outdoor play areas, teaching gardens, and other community facilities extend from this porch to integrate with the grassed square. A tectonic quality not characteristic of the sculptural forms to the north is introduced in various struts, beams, and trellises.
Heavy timber post-and-beam construction is the traditional Salish building technique. The structure of the Seabird Island School is a largescale, engineered-wood interpretation of this building method. Because the complexity and scale of the design were beyond the construction experience of the band members who were to erect the school, a detailed framing model was made to describe the geometry of the structure in three dimensions and to supplement conventional two-dimensional construction documents.
Walls and roofs are clad in cedar shingles that will weather in shades ranging from a soft silver- gray to a deep red-brown depending upon orientation and exposure; the sculptural volumes of the north especially will be enriched and subtly exaggerated. Under the broad eaves at the south and east, walls are clad in translucent whitestained plywood panels to increase luminosity and to provide a contrast to the weathered character of the northern side.
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