February 2020

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54 | F E B R U A R Y 2 0 2 0 R.E. Mountain Secondary School P H OTO G R A P H Y CO U RT E SY L A N G L E Y S C H O O L D I S T R I C T R.E. MOUNTAIN SECONDARY SCHOOL by ROBIN BRUNET I t has become a familiar scenario outside of B.C.'s urban centres: pop- ulation growth causes a school to add more and more portables, until the entire facility is bursting at the seams. This predicament is the reason for the development of the new R.E. Mountain Secondary School in the flourishing Willoughby Slope area of Langley, B.C., which contains the largest portion of undeveloped land in Greater Vancouver (at one point, 71 percent of all construction in Langley occurred here). At its peak in 2018, the school it replaced on site had 21 portables to help accommodate 1,320 students. "Our idea was to transform the exist- ing school into a middle school and have R.E. Mountain ready for stu- dents in September of 2019," says R.E. Mountain principal Magdy Ghobrial. Langley School District #35 and HCMA were tasked with creating new facilities for 1,700 students that would also enhance the community in terms of function and visual appeal. "Through natural light, ventilation, rational floor plans, improved visibil- ity for staff, and connections to the outdoors, we can provide a safe and comfortable environment that promotes and protects the vibrancy of high school life," says HCMA in its literature. It adds, "Due to this rapid growth in the community, schools in the area have been under tremendous enrol- ment pressure. To protect the quality of education and ensure students are safe and secure in schools, the school district asked us to work to an acceler- ated schedule." Early on it was decided to recognize the concept of authenticity and self- direction in student learning, and this informed the programming as well as the architecture of the new school. For example, instead of the traditional labyrinth of corridors and closed class- rooms, HCMA designed the classrooms to open up into collaborative spaces, and corridors were reduced at certain junctures by opening them onto these spaces (which in turn were augmented by large windows that would achieve another major objective of bringing natural light deep into the interior). Even a courtyard was designed to be flexible, as the adjacent classrooms could easily transform it into a learn- ing area on good weather days. Arguably the most distinctive design feature serves as the heart of R.E. Mountain Secondary and also provides it with the ambiance of a university. It is the two-level grand gallery, which bisects the entire build- ing and is a huge open area with various gathering spots and clear views of the theatre, gym, cafeteria, upstairs art rooms, and other spaces. "It is the welcome point for visitors coming into the school and a place for students to hang out," says Ghobrial. HCMA designed the gallery to be two-storeys high on the eastern portion; on the west it steps down to seating, making this a three-storey zone with spectacular floor-to-ceiling glazing. The massive gallery is augmented with bridges leading to other portions of the building. "It's visually striking and a unique addition to the second- ary school," says Ghobrial. Flow from the interior to exterior was achieved not only with glazing but also with Cedar elements on the gallery ceiling, which continue outside to the main entrance. Exterior materials include a brick overlay on concrete along the bottom of the academic wing and gym, and alu- minum cladding above. Special accents around the windows change from mustard to reddish brown depending on the viewing angle, and abundant glazing for the gym and library provide pedestrians with visual penetration into the interior, especially when the school is illuminated at night. HCMA notes that, "The project has been fast-paced, with just nine months from concept design to ten- der and two years for construction. Construction proceeded on schedule, allowing the school to open September 2019 with full occupancy." Ghobrial credits Stuart Olson's "hard work and professionalism" for adhering to construction schedules after ground broke on the project in 2017. "They built our school from the ground up instead of relying on time- saving construction methods such as tilt-up," he says. "Fortunately, Stuart Olson had the advantage of work- ing on a completely secured site and through a fairly mild winter with not as much rain as we're used to." The principal concludes, "Students, staff, and parents are very happy with our new school. We love its unique- ness. Although such projects can be a logistics nightmare, all the elements in this one fell into place. It was quite a fun process." A LOCATION 7755 202A Street, Langley, B.C. OWNER /DEVELOPER Langley School District #35 ARCHITECT HCMA GENER AL CONTR ACTOR Stuart Olson STRUCTUR AL CONSULTANT Fast + Epp MECHANICAL CONSULTANT AME Consulting Group Ltd. (AME) ELECTRICAL CONSULTANT Jarvis Engineering Consultants L ANDSCAPE ARCHITECT/ CIVIL CONSULTANT van der Zalm + associates TOTAL SIZE 14,000 square feet TOTAL COST $55 million VAN DER ZALM 1/4.indd 1 2/6/20 10:40 AM

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