Muskoka Falls Elementary

 / Circulation

Terry White, Tom Wilson / + VG Architects

Muskoka Falls Elementary

The variation of the hallway is more stimulating than the traditional repetitive hallway design of most schools. Students and teachers feel more alive and it gets their brains working.

Terry White, Partner

Educators have told us of the many stresses students and teachers may face on a daily basis. The staircase and its beautiful views to the natural world allows people to release some of these stresses. A wide and welcoming lobby at the west entrance opens into the hallway. Running off the hallway are administrative offices, classrooms, gym change rooms and the library. The hallway culminates in the fantastic glassed-in staircase (east) which sweeps down to the lower level hallway that mirrors it.  It pushes out into the site so you feel you are on the rock next to the river with the pine trees all around you.

We angled the hallway to narrow its width as people move toward the staircase. This creates “varied space”; and the experience of “change” is good for student cognitive functioning, for keeping their brains active and aware. In addition, the tapering of the corridor gives a visual sense of being in a larger space. The variation of the hallway is more stimulating an environment that the traditional repetitive hallway design of most schools.

The hallway has significant daylight on both levels to emphasize the end of the space and the beginning of the outside. Wherever you are in the hallway you can see outside to the east and west. There are also north facing windows in each classroom which gives everyone a sense of place, a feeling of calmness and security that they know where they are.

The Staircase at the east end of the building is another great feature of Muskoka Falls. It infuses the Hallway with a wonderful amount of daylight, and directly boosts student and teacher emotional energy, something that is important during our long winters. You can see South, East and North, with views of the granite outcropping and of the Muskoka River flowing by the school.

We placed an inviting bench at the base of the Staircase as an intimate gathering spot. The view of the playing fields and, just beyond them, the river, makes students happy and feel good about where they are. The students using the stairs are chatting and taking their time. They’re having fun, which is such an important and often overlooked quality in a school environment.