February 2020

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F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 0 | 47 George Webster Elementary School P H OTO G R A P H Y CO U RT E SY M C A RC H I T EC T S I N C . GEORGE WEBSTER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL by LAURIE JONES F or the students at George Webster Elementary School in the East York district of Toronto, arriv- ing at school in September 2018 was a much-anticipated day. Their brand new, two-storey, state- of-the-art air-conditioned school is the newest education facility in the area, boasting a central triple gymnasium that can accommodate up to 1,000 people for events, a three-room child- care, a playing field with artificial turf, a parenting centre and a paediat- ric clinic. "The original 1954 building needed to grow because the population increased exponentially in this area," explains Salvatore Beltrano, man- ager of capital project management for the Toronto District School Board (TDSB). "To offset this TDSB installed two 'porta-pack' additions in the 1990s each containing six classrooms. Over time, this addition became anti- quated, with a lot of wear and tear on the building. We could have proceeded with a retrofit-type modification, but it was clearly more cost-effective to replace the entire facility with one that was universally accessible and could accommodate the full student popu- lation. This would also eliminate the need for the additional dozen por- tables added to the site. We have now reclaimed the entire site and united the 848 student population under one roof." Beltrano also notes that in order to maximize the functionality of the school's planning concept the archi- tect located classrooms and activity areas that require windows to the exterior, along the outer perimeter of the building. A ring corridor wraps around the internal functions and shared areas like the triple gymna- sium, stage, kitchens, washrooms, and service rooms. The interior spaces receive natural light directly or indi- rectly through clerestories and three large light monitors spanning the entire width of the gym. The new building was unusually large for an elementary school with a footprint exceeding one acre. To humanize its large mass the build- ing was made as transparent as possible. By providing visual con- nections between floors and into the central spaces students are immedi- ately in touch with activities within their school. This transparency has also been extended to the exterior. From the sidewalk, just outside of the library-learning commons, stu- dents and staff can see through to the interior corridor and all the way to the rear of the gymnasium, over 60-metres away. The triple gymnasium has been designed with movable dividers – allowing both full and cross-court play, along with the possible use of the divided gym by multiple groups. There is also a proper stage for pre- sentations. Administration offices are located at the front of the building – adjacent to the main entrance and bus/car drop-off loop. "The design was developed thought- fully with the community in mind," says Beltrano. "The resulting building and site treatments are like night and day from the original condition. The grounds include an artificial turf field with areas for soccer, baseball, and LOCATION 50 Chapman Avenue, Toronto, Ontario OWNER /DEVELOPER Toronto District School Board ARCHITECT MC Architects Inc. GENER AL CONTR ACTOR TORCOM Construction Inc. STRUCTUR AL CONSULTANT Ravens Engineering Inc. MECHANICAL /ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Ellard-Willson Engineering Inc. CIVIL CONSULTANT WSP Canada L ANDSCAPE ARCHITECT NAK Design Strategies TOTAL SIZE 95,000 square feet TOTAL CONSTRUCTION COST $15.6 million (including childcare) cricket as well as hard surface areas for children to play on." "One of the challenges for us was having almost 700 students within six-metres of the construction zone," says Leo Makrimichalos, principal, MC Architects Inc. "We separated the access to the school from the con- struction to eliminate endangering the students and staff. Regardless it required protective hoarding to be relocated a number of times to permit construction and the existing school to continue operating safely." Leo Zannier, project manager at TORCOM Construction Inc. adds that the entrance of the school was moved. "In addition to the location, we added a circular driveway to accommodate cars and buses," says Zannier. Unlike many past school designs by MC Architects that added a blend of bright colours for elemen- tary students, the George Webster Elementary School has muted accent colours of mid and light grey. "We believe that the muted colours pro- vide a base for colour to be added," says Makrimichalos. "Although only open for 16 months, there are already well executed and colourful murals along corridor surfaces. We are always pleased to see our schools bringing out the best in students." Since completion of the project, the design team has often had their hard work come back in a positive way. "When we start new projects in Toronto, teaching staff have said they hope their new school turns out as well as George Webster Elementary, not knowing that we were the archi- tects," says Makrimichalos. A 9:12 AM 9:48 AM 2:24 PM

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