Bill Crothers Secondary School
York Region District School Board
ZAS Architects Inc.
Project Completion Date
Type of Contract
This unique facility addresses the needs of high performance athletes, as well as those students pursuing a life-style regimen based on a healthy, active lifestyle. The students attending this school are supported by extensive athletic facilities that include three double gymnasiums, varsity calibre training facilities, plyometrics and aerobic studios, coaching centre, and physiology labs. Exterior facilities include an 8-lane synthetic surface track, artificial turf football soccer fields capable of hosting provincial calibre events within the 30-acre site. The “Healthy” mandate goes beyond simply physical activity and includes a concern for environmental quality – thus a LEED silver rating has been achieved for this project.
The four-storey facility is structured on two axes intersecting in a community forum where academic, athletic, and civic life come together. This is an excellent example of leading edge work done in environmental psychology, capitalizing on how people make sense of their surroundings by constructing mental maps, in which clearly-organized paths play a principal role. An east-west axis–the ‘Athlete’s Street’–is a double-height space linking several major activity areas with specialized athletic facilities. Not merely a corridor, this axis doubles as viewing gallery for active and passive engagement, both of which are demonstrably important for positive learning environments. This exemplifies the School’s embodiment of transparency as a design principle.
The north-south ‘academic’ axis links the Athlete’s Street with classrooms, laboratory spaces, and studios for visual arts, music, and theatre, all anchored on the top floor by the library and computer labs. The two axes materialize through indoor-outdoor transition zones into outdoor sports facilities (including game fields, an eight-lane 400m running track, and basketball courts) and less-formally programmed public spaces linking the School into its neighbourhood and landscape context.
In process, the mandate was to develop a design that supports the needs of the local community and the regional municipality of which it is part without compromising the activities of either. The project represents a tremendous opportunity in the design of learning environments in a rapidly-growing metropolitan region of five million; across North America, very few precedents exist at the secondary school level in which an academic school curriculum is so closely intertwined with the athletics program. Consequently, the planning and design of this complex was deeply influenced by three Advisory Committees of external experts (former Olympians, elite amateur athletes, senior staff from local University Physical Education faculties, sports administrators, and curriculum experts) as well as interest groups from the broader public. A strong desire that became apparent in the design process was the need to combine a center of excellence for athletics with public space where athletics, academics, community life, and social activities casually converge. Our collaborative approach successfully engaged the expertise of the key stakeholders through workshops, charities and public meetings to develop these ideas into a School that can serve as a symbolic and functional hub for healthy living.