Project Spotlight: Mutchmor Public School

August 16, 2017

Built in 1895 as a four-room school in the Romanesque Revival style, Mutchmor Public School is an elementary school in Ottawa, Ontario. It is located in The Glebe at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Lyon, and run by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

Various expansions of Mutchmor Public have taken place over nine decades. The school is home to a growing population of nearly 550 students, in an active community where learning, wellness, engagement and active lifestyles are important values. The school’s options for expansion to meet the demand were limited due to the size of the site.

The design team at Hobin Architecture included Sandy Davis, Barry Hobin, Todd Duckworth and Reinhard Vogel, working collaboratively to realize the vision for the addition. The project involved gaining approval under the City’s Site Plan Control, Committee of Adjustments, Building Code Review and Heritage Act, and included public meetings to engage the community in the development of the solution.

Site & Floor Plan Development

The requirement for additional kindergarten and elementary classrooms meant evaluating options for a new wing. The original 1895 wing fronting onto Fifth Avenue had been expanded northward toward Fourth Avenue and subsequently to the west after that, leaving only a rectangular parcel of vacant land used as a hard surface playground. The newest expansion now occupies this space, and children share a common playground with an adjacent school.

By situating the addition within the void of the “L” shaped floor plan, an internal circulation loop is now formed on both levels, greatly improving the flow of students through the corridors and simplifying routes to the gym, media centre and administration zones.

Maintaining the Character of the Heritage Setting

The adjacency of the addition to the original 1895 school wing required careful scrutiny of the heritage setting in addition to the dominant residential character of the Glebe. The addition derives its proportions and massing from the original school, a contemporary counterpoint to the building’s Romanesque detailing most notably seen in the round-arched entrance, Palladian windows and rusticated stone base.

The building massing of the addition is based on an angled ground floor that ensures a clear view of the iconic entry tower of the original heritage school facade. The view of the tower was carefully preserved from the east and the west along Fifth Avenue. The upper level returns to an orthogonal grid and aligns with the facade of the original school.

The Glebe Context

The mosaic of coloured glazing panels, which dominates the addition’s Fifth Avenue façade, references the palette of colours found in the neighbouring homes. The white frame surrounding the ground floor projection continues the stone band of the 1895 building while forming a notional porch element, adding to the existing residential context of front porches. A survey of neighbouring residential porches and front doors guided the selection of colours in the prominent glazing feature as well as the projecting mullions at the second floor windows.

Details Matter

The addition mimics the decorative masonry pattern found in the original 1895 school in a contemporary way. The linear pattern of brick recesses, a stone band course and the rusticated stone base carries on to update the mullion pattern in the projecting glass box that houses the new kindergarten classrooms. Inside, the cut stone door surrounds, pediment and second floor keystone are preserved and announce the passage from old to new. Contemporary gestures, such as the full-height vertical strip window seen near the entrance canopy and the projecting “fins” at the second floor punched openings, are subtle and do not detract from the fundamental principles of history and context which largely shaped the addition’s design.

Sensitive & Sustainable Systems

The addition accommodates a state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and air conditioning system that was built in to a basement mechanical room, limiting rooftop mechanical encroachments. This allowed the final designs to respect the roofline and aesthetic of the original 1895 school.

The new wing is designed on a LEED template and utilizes a tight building envelope, high ‘R’ value walls, low flush and flow fixtures, LED lighting, daylight and occupancy sensored lighting, high-performance mechanical systems and a ‘smart’ building automation system.

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