York House School, an independent K–12 for girls, has been located in the heart of Vancouver’s heritage Shaughnessy neighborhood since 1932. The forward-looking Institute required a new senior school building with a mandate that included the incorporation of energy efficient systems, the maximization of natural lighting, and the provision of flexible workspaces to accommodate 21st-century teaching practices. The new senior school was also required to unify the 13,445sm campus, which comprised several buildings of various styles that had been added over an 80-year span.
The new Senior School provides a strong presence and new entry point for the greater York House campus through a soaring glazed portal, circulation crossroads and atrium space that connects the south, north and east wings of the existing school. The addition includes 3,345sm of classrooms; administrative and service spaces; social locker zones and lounge areas for students in grades eight through twelve. Innovative, progressive and collaborative state-of-the-art learning and teaching spaces are adaptable and flexible, with spaces and places for informal student and teacher interaction throughout the day.
The composition and hierarchy of the primary west-facing entry elevation is stepped back at the third story, creating an extensive balcony that reduces apparent scale and relates to the massing of the adjacent north and south wings. Vivid, wood-finished, vertical sunshades at the west and east elevations provide solar shading and accentuate the striking presence of the building from the street and the campus.
Senior and junior students access the York House campus through a landscaped forecourt featuring a variety of outdoor seating and gathering areas. The area adjacent to the entry will be planted with white roses—the emblem of the school—and the threshold to the school entry is inscribed with the school motto ‘Not for Ourselves Alone’ reinforcing the school’s value of the greater community. Rain gardens flank the main entry and a gently flowing fountain provides a calm and soothing setting. The coloured glass, steel and wood entry portal provides weather protection, clearly marking the primary access to the campus.
Junior students pass through the sky-lit atrium crossroads, which features several terraced social and informal study spaces, on their way to other areas of the existing school. The central atrium space connects the Senior School to the existing north and south wings though a generous, day-lit concourse, creating dynamic interactions throughout the school day, as well as a unified circulation system for the campus as a whole. Finish materials are simple and spare with a palette of textured concrete, wood, glass and stone used throughout the facility. A donor recognition program features the names of thousands of famous women that are screen-printed onto the myriad of glass guards.
Built to the equivalent of LEED Gold standard, the project follows best practices in sustainable design through storm water management, energy optimization, passive solar control and day-lighting, resource-efficient building materials, and enhanced indoor air quality and occupant comfort through the stack effect of the central atrium.