+VG Architects in association with SZA Architects
Its very name is the first clue that Granite Ridge Education Centre is a unique building. Home to 550 students, this newly built school in the Eastern Ontario community of Sharbot Lake is not an elementary, middle or high school, but all three combined, teaching kids from kindergarten to Grade 12. But Granite Ridge also serves as the main gathering space for local residents, a playhouse for a nearby theatre company and an emergency shelter in case of an ice storm or other disaster.
The school is a consolidation project where two elementary schools and one high school were merged. A key challenge in building the new school was to not disrupt the old high school which was located on the same site and still in operation while the new school was built. The new three-storey building has a common wing, which houses the gymnasium and cafeteria, and an academic wing, which houses the classrooms. The academic wing is built with kindergarten on the first floor, elementary on the second and high school on the third. Students from each area can circulate vertically to enter and exit the building, without walking through each other’s areas.
The school is a testament to the local geography and to smart building design. It is cradled between swamp and forest, snug up against a massive granite ridge, allowing students to interact with their rural surroundings while creating an open and inviting place to learn and live.
“Our focus was how to integrate this type of building into the landscape and in doing so, create a design that is reflective of community values. We had to make it safe and accessible for all ages to learn and play together yet be somewhat separated by age group for reasons of safety and pedagogy.” – Tom Wilson, Associate Partner, +VG Architects
The final product is a new community hub for all ages, where hundreds of students and neighbours gather for a broad spectrum of classes, sports and special events.