Kohn Shnier Architects design The Claude Watson School for the Arts in Toronto
While facilitating a conventional Toronto District School Board curriculum for students from grades 4 to 8, the Claude Watson School for the Arts provides specialized training in both Fine Arts and the Performing Arts. Students who attend this school come from all corners of the city of Toronto and must audition to gain acceptance to the programme. The school is a symbol of the highest aspirations of applied cultural and primary education.
The building is sited along a secondary road but adjacent to high density, high-rise residential buildings — a hybrid condition that is simultaneously urban and suburban. In response, the project creates a simple and clear form with a strong street presence while providing an image of performance and accessibility.
The 50,000 square foot programme includes staff and technical facilities, conventional class rooms, music rooms, drama rooms, art rooms, a small gymnasium and multi purpose room. Varying sizes in space were required, achieved by shifting the corridor laterally between floor levels.
The hallway on the lowest level is located entirely on one side, freeing up the rest of the floor plate to create large spaces for the gymnasium and music rooms. This level is slightly sunken into the ground, allowing for higher ceiling levels of the programmes while maintaining the proportion of the building massing. The second level corridor shifts by about a third to create parallel zones for administration and service rooms, as well as medium-sized special programme areas. The hallway here opens onto the double-height space of the gymnasium below and showcases the clear-span truss structure.
At the top level, the corridor is in the middle of the floor plate creating a conventional double-loaded classroom arrangement and leads, on axis, to the library. The library is expressed as a floating volume, projecting over and protecting an outdoor performance space/bleacher below it.