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It's apparent from a quick glance at the Claude Weston School for the Arts by Kohn Shnier Architects in Toronto that the elementary school has a special purpose. Targeted at kids gifted in the performing and visual arts, the 50,000 sf (4,600 sm) building's entry is an outdoor amphitheater where the inner workings of the school are on display for the community.

Most likely it's not the outdoor theater that will attract the most attention, but the honeycomb brise-soleil of the top floor jutting out above the theater's seating. Nicknamed the beehive for this distinctive facade, the library behind the aluminum screen is also "a metaphor (PDF link) for the creativity of the artists-to-be buzzing around its hallways." The honeycomb is further accentuated by a lime-green frame casting reflections on the aluminum.

The entry and facade are set perpendicular to the street, facing sports grounds and creating a mini campus of sorts for the students. Like most primary schools, the design is a balance of outdoor and indoor spaces, as each integral to the development of the children, even in a location with lots of snow and for kids with more than sports on their minds. Inside, the gymnasium is a focal point, visible from the main circulation and reinforcing the importance of physical activity.

With a small budget and a more particular program than most elementary schools, the architects create a distinctive design that reaches out to the neighborhood while creating suitable spaces for the nurturing of talented children. It makes one wonder why the same can't be done for "less special" schools and children, as those places face equally small budgets and other design restrictions. Here's hoping this school creates some change for the better.

 

Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto, Ontario by Kohn Shnier Architects

2007.10.01

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