As part of the Kehewin Cree Nation’s mission to “provide holistic education to all students for life-long learning”, this elementary school welcomes an open learning space for the Kehewin Indigenous community.

The Cree community’s core values of “Knowing, Being, and Doing” were integrated throughout the design process of this mass timber school. As an expressive and multifunctional space, the architectural concept drove the design for flexible and efficient layouts, camber in maximizing framing efficiency, and reduction in building materials.

Project Essentials

  • LocationKehewin, AB
  • ClientKehewin Cree Nation
  • ArchitectManasc Isaac
  • Size33,000 ft² (3,000 m²)
  • BudgetC$20 million

Creative collaboration was a critical part to the design, particularly with key feature areas that highlighted the structure, including a feature stair in the gathering space. Through close collaboration between the design team, architect, and contractor throughout the design and construction phase, an iterative process was used to balance the complex concave geometry and constructability considerations.

The Cree teaching room is one of the focal points of this K-12 facility, created by a sense of warmth and gathering through the double-height space of exposed wood structure, which opens up to a king post truss with curved glulams. Additional learning amenities include a gathering fire pit, an amphitheater, and a play area.

Local labour played a significant role to the project, from labourers to key tradespeople, ensuring that the school was designed and built by Kehewin people for the Kehewin people. This integral sense of community to the construction process has instilled a sense of local pride and excitement for the completion of the school.

The choice to build with renewable wood products for this glulam structure as a sustainable building material amplifies the significance of the Indigenous community and their deep connection with nature, further supporting students as they learn and create their own identity.

Watch the Kehewin Cree Nation School’s concept video below: