The new St. George’s School could set a new benchmark when it comes to excellence in school design for a secondary school in Canada.
The independent boys-only school on the edge of the Vancouver Westside, within the Dunbar neighbourhood, has enlisted the design services of Arthur Gensler from the world-renowned architectural firm Gensler, based in San Francisco, as well as the local office of IBI Group.
The work focuses on redeveloping the school’s larger western property, the 14-acre Senior School at 4175 West 29th Avenue. A rezoning application, outlining the campus master plan, was approved by City Council earlier this year after a six-year planning and public consultation process.
A preliminary design of the new campus, with detailed artistic renderings, was unveiled to students, families of students, and alumni for the first time this week.
“I thought this was a very challenging and opportunistic chance to create a really special facility for a great school,” said Gensler. “I like to work with the best, and St. George’s is clearly the best of the boys schools in Canada, and maybe even the world.”
“The experience I’d like students to have is to feel like it’s part of their home. It’s a place you look forward to come, a place they enjoy, [and] they feel like they can accomplish what they want. So we’ve created an environment, I believe, that different students can proceed at their own rate. Certainly, St. George’s will be one of my favourite projects.”
Based on the details of the approved rezoning, the new Senior School campus will be built in multiple phases, with the first phase consisting of two new academic buildings and ‘Saints Hall’ – a new gathering space for students and the school’s community at large.
As fundraising allows, future phases will include an auditorium and teaching spaces for music and drama, a new athletics complex, new boarding facilities and faculty accommodation, and the reconfiguration of the playing fields. The existing Senior School building will eventually be demolished.
New facilities for the Senior School are required as many classrooms are “substandard” and existing communal spaces are insufficient for student collaboration and hands-on, project-based learning. Additionally, new boarding facilities on the Senior School campus would allow the existing Senior School boarding house on the Junior School campus to be repurposed.
Despite the major changes, there are no plans to increase the number of Senior School students nor the number of students residing in boarding facilities.
The new campus will be centred around a courtyard, and new academic buildings will be interconnected with covered outdoor walkways.
Building materials will revolve around heavy timber, glass, stone, and wood cladding.
Gensler’s firm – one of the world’s largest architectural companies – has designed over 50 education-oriented buildings around the world, including university buildings and a handful of elementary schools and high schools.
However, the company is perhaps better known for designing the offices of companies like Facebook, Instagram, Adidas, Etsy, NVIDIA, Microsoft, and Hyundai. Its work has also extended into infrastructure, including San Francisco International Airport’s Terminal 2 and most recently Incheon International Airport’s expansion.
More notably, Gensler designed the new Shanghai Tower, which is now the world’s second tallest building.
A proposed 430-ft-tall residential tower near Metrotown that is currently going through the City of Burnaby’s rezoning process is also designed by Gensler.
St. George’s School is consistently ranked as one of the best elementary schools and high schools not only in BC but in Canada. Tuition costs are comparable to UBC’s full-time tuition, with annual Senior School tuition set at $24,950 for local residents and $36,230 for international students. With the added boarding option, tuition for each type is roughly double.
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Editor’s note: This article has been updated with new artistic renderings and details of the building design by Gensler and with clarifications on the details of the project team.