Completion: 2019
Owner: Snunneymuxw First Nation

Snunneymuxw Community School

Snunneymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo BC

This new elementary school for the Snunneymuxw First Nation offers a contemporary educational environment that supports 21st Century educational principles, while cloaked in a building form that takes inspiration from the traditional architecture of the Coast Salish People. The new school contains classrooms, project rooms and multi-purpose spaces arranged to permit a variety of learning modes to address the needs of each student.

The new building was conceived, with extensive involvement from teachers and community members, to reflect local customs, culture and educational methods. The teaching of language and traditions was particularly important to the local community and is facilitated by a library area equipped with smaller spaces, including a language room and an elders lounge that encourage the preservation of the Snunneyymuxw’s language and culture through oral traditions and the mentoring of the youth by community elders. A generous school commons at the heart of building invites the participation of the community in the life of the school and provides an area for dining, supporting a food program for disadvantaged students.

The school is divided into two wings (one for younger children, the other for grades 4-7), separated by the school commons and shared gymnasium. A circular story-telling area is used daily to meet-and-greet, to feature elders and as a simple gathering area.

The linear, gabled-roofed form of the building is a direct expression of ‘shelter’, providing continuous rain protection around the perimeter of the building and linking the exterior doors of the classrooms and gym to covered outdoor play areas. The metal-clad roof wraps down to the ground for additional wind shelter and provides durable protection for exterior cedar cladding at the classroom walls. The interior of the building is characterized by the glue-laminated wood roof structure, exposed throughout, providing visual warmth and excellent acoustic qualities.

Photos: Leung Chow

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