The Site

The location of the school on site was chosen to allow for an ease of transition from the street to the school, and from the school to the field. As the street elevation is a few meters higher than the school at most locations, the transition from the sidewalk to the school had to be done efficiently and safely. A parking buffer created between the street and school allows for a safer transition to access the school and allows the pathway from the school to the field to be more accessible. The field, lower than the school, permits numerous vertical play areas as incorporated into the landscape design.

LEED Gold Standard

ċəsqənelə Elementary School is a $16 million elementary school in Maple Ridge, BC, with a capacity for 600 students. The project is in the early stages of schematic design and a late 2017 construction start is anticipated. The school will target LEED Gold Certification.

One-Storey Design Accommodates Indoor Pods and Outdoor Learning

Atypical of most schools, building height was kept to one storey. As this is an elementary school with smaller children and with the importance of collaborative learning through interior and exterior spaces, this decision was strongly supported.
Every classroom pod has direct access to the exterior. The single storey presented challenges in articulating an extensive façade. The flat main roof is designed for the classroom portions of the building, whereas the collaborative learning areas integrate higher popped-up sloped roofs with tree-like columns and exposed wood beams to relate to the riparian area. The use of earth tone shaded colours like blue and green on the façade also reflect the surrounding area, as well as introduce a colourful display of play to the school. The internal corridors have access to natural daylight through high clerestory windows allowing both south and east light into the spaces.
A double height library greets the user from the exterior as you approach the front entrance. The large south facing glazing with integrated solar shading via trees and building elements allows direct visual access into the space where hexagonal light fixtures designed to mimic a honeycomb beehive pattern can be seen.

Extensive Stakeholder Engagement

CHPA does not begin a project with a preconceived design. Instead, it invites and welcomes input from a number of stakeholders. Over two days, 12 meetings were held on a wide range of topics, to allow CHPA to obtain detailed information and feedback. The efforts of this multi-disciplinary team will enable the school to reflect the visions and priorities of 12 diverse stakeholder groups, including First Nations, sustainability specialists, teachers, and librarians. Two of the stakeholder groups – the sustainability team and the outdoor teachers – plan to take one of the learning pods and turn it into an off-the-grid area of the school. This pod will have solar power, composting and water recycling incorporated in its design, representing a progressive choice that offers students a learning environment that is completely off-grid.

Influential First Nations Engagement

The First Nations stakeholder group conveyed to CHPA that it wanted the school, which is on traditional land, to reflect the language, history and culture of its people. This approach would enable all students to gain insight into the rich history and purpose of the land, and those who lived on it, before the school was built. In response, although the project is in its early stages, CHPA is already contemplating various exciting ways to incorporate First Nations language and art throughout the school as a means to tell this story.

Creating Excitement in the Community

CHPA created a means to generate enthusiasm about the project in the Maple Ridge community – even during its early design stages. Information was used from the funding report, which CHPA developed, to create a detailed rendering that pictured people, cars, trees and other elements of the project. This approach allowed the community to easily understand the nature of the school and the role it would play in the area.

A Collaborative Approach to Addressing School and Community Needs

The school will be used as a community centre after hours and on the weekends. In response, a large multipurpose learning commons was designed that will function also as a community hall. Other design features include spaces for: multiple kitchens, childcare areas, child play areas, early learning programs, and administrative use.

Thinking Ahead

Maple Ridge is a progressive school district that embraces 21st century learning principles. The one-storey school design, unusual for schools with tight space constraints, includes “pods” organized in communities to provide a more intimate learning experience for students. The pods follow the Da Vinci configuration – a mix of learning disciplines within each grouping. Each pod (10 total) has direct access to an outdoor learning area, supported by steel columns designed to mimic trees, which can be further utilized to expand students education without being confined to a classroom all day. The school also includes gender neutral washrooms throughout which allows for inclusivity, as well as reducing safety concerns. This innovative design echoes the client’s priority for outdoor education, collaborative learning and creating a safe place for students.


School District No. 42 (Maple Ridge) Maple Ridge, BC Complete September 2019 16 million 4,657 m2 Academic, Institutional, Interior Design, Landscape