Patkau Strawberry Vale 02Located on the outskirts of Victoria, Canada, the Strawberry Vale Elementary School by Patkau Architects is a quintessential modern northwest school, nestled among large rock outcroppings in an oak savanna, a microclimate particular to the area. The classrooms in particular were an inspiration to our work in that they evoked a strong sense of place, carefully articulated with materials and detailing not usually found in the institutional language of K12 public schools.

Patkau Strawberry Vale 03aOur JUST ONE THING this week is once again intimacy and scale. The low slung wood framed roofs, view and clerestory windows, and reading benches at the classroom corners create a warm, inviting learning environment scaled to small children. Three corners of each room have windows looking out either into the landscape, or the interior street, dissolving the sense of containment.

Patkau Strawberry Vale 04a Along the interior street, skylights provide balanced daylighting for both the public street as well as the classrooms. These are  located at nodes where four classrooms come together, widened to provide small breakout areas for kids to work independently outside of the classroom. Patkau Strawberry Vale 05 The central circulation spine weaving along between the classrooms has a completely internalized feel, bringing to mind the traditional longhouses of the local native culture where the only daylight comes from above. Along strategic points, the library, story telling area, and administrative spaces are directly open to the public zone, creating a sense of community connectiveness. Rough fir boards provide plenty of space to display student work. Patkau Strawberry Vale 08 Patkau Architects


  1. Always a favorite project! Wonderful analysis – esp how use of daylight and natural materials can “dissolve the sense of containment.”

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