March 2023

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M A R C H 2 0 2 3 | 65 Irene Kelleher Totí:Itawtxw P H OTO G R A P H Y BY DA L E K L I P P EN S T EI N /CO U RT E S Y A B B OT S FO R D S C H O O L D I S T R I C T IRENE KELLEHER TOTÍ:ITAWTXW by ROBIN BRUNET W hen a new elementary school on Eagle Mountain in Abbotsford was finally christened Irene Kelleher Totí:ltawtxw (House of Learning) in October of 2021, locals became aware that the facility honoured regional Indigenous history both in name as well as design. The new build project ably meets programming needs with aesthetics featuring clean, angular lines on the exterior, and large, light-filled interi- ors with an emphasis on curved and wavy forms. The 4,000-square-metre, two- storey school was built to LEED Gold standards, has a capacity for 460 students and four dedicated childcare classrooms – a total of 88 places. It also features a gymna- sium, outdoor teaching space, and six exterior play areas. The main building structure is structural steel with glulam beam roof supports. Abbotsford School District had waited a decade for approvals and funding for a school that would serve a prestigious residential community on Eagle Mountain. Early require- ments were that it would embrace 21st century learning concepts as well as embody the cultural elements of the region's original inhabitants. To achieve this, it retained a trusted col- league, Station One Architects, prior to the province investing $24.7 million (augmented by $2.5 million from the school district) in the project. Justin Dyck, partner at Station One, says, "Our first task was to put together the definition report, which along with the diligence reports facil- itated the government funding. The site upon which the school was to be located was a greenfield site, and funding was contingent on half of the land being developed as a park for the City of Abbotsford. The school kids could use the park, and in turn local residents would have access to school programs such as a daycare." While programming was prescribed to Station One, the main task for the architects was making the Indigenous elements an organic part of the design, and Dyck credits the school district for pairing him with local Indigenous leaders. "According to them, a great flood occurred in Abbotsford 5,000 years ago and forced everyone to flee in their canoes to Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Abbotsford," he says. "This informed our design." What this translated into were elements such as spun wood col- umns in the entry reminiscent of an upside-down canoe; an acoustic panel treatment in corridors resembling oscillating waves; bubble prints on the floors and large circular forms hanging from the ceilings representing water; and many other subtle features (in the

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