Patkau Seabird Island 02

Located in the Fraser River Valley an hour east of Vancouver, B.C., this ‘House of Learning’ for the Seabird Island First Nations band, designed by Patkau Architects stands as a reminder to the community of their commitment to preserving the Salish cultural values and traditions.

Our JUST ONE THING this week is form and meaning. In new schools, there is often a hope that the design in some way embodies the identity of a particular community. The Seabird Island school is powerfully set in their ancestral home – a stunning landscape of river valley and mountains. The form of the building echoes the mountains beyond, reinforcing a longstanding sense of place.

Patkau Seabird Island 01The power of the building forms gain additional significance in light of embedded cultural references. The far view of the building resembles a swimming salmon, the band’s traditional major food source.  Cedar shingles, the large timber structure, and a large carved cedar entrance door refer back to the traditional Salish longhouses.

The early childhood center is located under the large roof overhang at the west end, echoing the band’s creation story of emerging out of a clam.

The bank of classrooms facPatkau Seabird Island 04e an outdoor play area, designed to be outdoor classrooms with raised planters and scaffolding referencing the structures used to hang salmon to dry after harvesting.

Patkau Seabird Island 03

The outcome is a school that reflects the aspirations of the Seabird Island band, grounding the students with a clear statement of their place in the natural world and their sustaining cultural traditions that live on.

Patkau Architects:


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