Experiencing the schoolyard site as a dynamic setting was a key dimension of the winning solutions in the 13-acres competition. The lower mainland of British Columbia receives on average 200 mm of rainfall per year. This abundant waterfall is typically captured at the surface and then piped underground where it is discharged at locations remote from where it once fell. In particular, the jury was interested in finding solutions that would use this rainfall as a source of learning and community activity. In Nicholas Gilsouls’s LesJardins D’East Clayton, Gilsoul modifies the rooftops of the school buildings so that they collect and transport water to the community gardens, intended for local residential and school use. The community gardens, which he calls ‘breathing gardens’, serve several functions. Firstly, they help filtrate the water running off the roof, secondly they provide irrigation to the gardens and thirdly, because the gardens are so intimately connected with the architecture of the school it is anticipated that this new system can provide numerous opportunities for learning about water, food, and land life cycles. In Gilsoul’s proposal the north light illuminates the interior of the classroom and he has arranged the children’s desks and chairs to augment views out to the garden.
This careful manipulation of the windows links the interior learning space with the exterior garden area and aids in showing the children the importance of the community gardening programme. Another aspect of Gilsoul’s proposal is the rooftops that are planted with species that rely on wind for dispersal and propagation. Downwind from the school the community gardens are subject to these meadow seeds that will move with the patterns of the wind. Gilsoul also anticipates the fact that community gardens will not always be kept as a designer envisions. There will be times when people are unable to garden and the meadow seeds will grow from these plots. When the community plots are being used they become gardens; when they are left unattended, the meadow species will take over.
Gilsoul also left a large portion of the site untouched and this also contributed to the sustainability dimension of his proposal. A wooded area on the western edge of the site was left ‘as is’ so that children could play and create in the forest. During the jury deliberations, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander remarked that Gilsoul’s proposal anticipated the future impact of the fully-built East Clayton community, noting that ‘this scheme allows breathing room, because the land surrounding the school site will be built up.’
The second prize entry submitted by Claudia Illanes Barrera with Andrew Harris Diez, and Loles Herrero Canela also used water, but on the wet site and with an emphasis on attracting wildlife. Their ‘wet site’ proposal takes the water that enters the north end of the site and brings it through a series of filtration ponds and streams that eventually lead to a larger irregularly shaped
retention wetland. The designers used the sloping ground of the site to separate the site into three different functional areas. The north end contains buildings and sports fields, the mid-section of the site contains specific spaces for community congregation, such as garden, enclosed field, amphitheatre, and open air classroom, and the south end of the site contains long boardwalks that stretch out over the wetland, allowing neighbours and children to observe the wildlife that it will attract. The jury was impressed with the organization of the site as it relates to programmes for diverse interactions, and to the detailed attention given to the grading and planting of the wetland to optimize use by animals and children.
Kamni Gill’s third placed entry entitled ‘Ditches’ addressed the dry site and used irrigation and drainage ditches to structure play and the movement of water. The ditches both collect and filter water, and provide places for plants and
animals, as well as spaces for exploration by children during the dry months. Gill proposes three main drainage areas in her submission. A long drainage channel, with a width that ranges from 4 to 9 metres and a depth that varies from 0.5 to 2 metres, runs north to south the entire length of the site. During the rainy months, this channel receives ample run-off from the athletic fields. During the drier months, Gill proposes a number of interventions using large wood members, canopy fabric, and wooden blocks. These big loose parts allow children to change and build within the dry channel, allowing for numerous creative endeavours. Gill locates an amphitheatre at the centre of this channel on the upper slopes. This space provides a theatre for free play and formal plays.
A second ditch system is a shallow swale that circumnavigates the edges of the site and picks up storm water from adjacent streets and sidewalks in East Clayton. This open swale is key
Second prize plan view by Claudia Illanes Barrera with Andrew Harris Diez, and Loles Herrero Canela. (Photo: Kenneth Studtmann and Lisa McNiven.)
to the sustainability mission of the East Clayton Neighborhood Concept Plan that calls for natural drainage systems. Swales reduce the velocity of water flow and increase the filtration and absorption of storm water into the soil. The third ditch system takes run-off from the school and community buildings, and directs this water to the gardens. Here, garden plots and drainage channels are places where Gill proposes plant installations such as arbours and climber structures. The implementation of these structures during the drier months adds another important function to the ditch because children can play underneath these elements.
Honourable mentions Robert Kastelic and Carina Rose in their proposal entitled ‘Wet’, envision a
series of seven pods (small spaces), throughout the wet site. Each pod has varying degrees of depth and soil wetness and a different educational community use planned. The varying degrees of wetness and depth create a variety of wetland types on one site, i. e. bogs, swamps, marshes and ponds. These areas will each attract similar as well as different types of living organisms and they will each evolve with variation depending on proximity to the water source, exposure to wind and sun, and their use by children, adults, and other animals. A network of pedestrian pathways and narrow watercourses connects people with the pods to form a narrative about these different wetland types. The distinct types of pods provide a living vocabulary of wetland types and the variety of different animals that these landscapes attract.
In the schoolyard/park design by Brian Vermeulen, Graeme Little, Carolyn Roy, and Cith Skelcher of England, they propose a very intimate relationship between the school’s architecture and the natural processes occurring on the wet site. This is done in order to heighten the children’s awareness of the connection between the rituals in their daily lives and the natural processes that are essential to a sustainable schoolyard. They propose an integrated series of wetland types and school buildings where large reed bed areas (composed of gravel and plants), marshes, and ponds actually flow under the structures. The school buildings are raised on columns, and windows are located to heighten the ecological connection between human use and natural process. For example, low windows are placed at the children’s sinks so they might discover a relationship between washing their hands and the water filtration function of the wetland immediately in view.