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Photo: Ihor Pona


“It’s an important project for us,” says former mayor Peter Clarkson as we walk up to Pin/Taylor Architects’ new East Three Schools in Inuvik, an arc-shaped building comfortably nestled into the terrain. He smiles, “Everyone’s excited for it.” The openness of the building and the warm sunlight entering the main foyer makes me agree. Inuvik needs this. (…) 


The school is welcoming and personable, providing large perimeter classrooms interspersed with a central band of common learning and leisure spaces for its 1,050 students. It’s laid out as a faceted south-facing crescent, with one wing dedicated to kindergarten and elementary students, and the other given over to high school students. A massive double gymnasium and a library form shared spaces in the centre. Glass panels adjoin the multiple entrance foyers as well as the administrative offices and gymnasiums, creating visual links to the heart of the school. Open spaces and generous stairwells connect common areas on different levels, offering students a wealth of opportunities to socialize, mingle, and to see and be seen. Glazing between hallways and various classrooms creates openness in the plan to encourage shared methods of learning. The animated light-filled environment is drastically different than the dark double-loaded corridors of Inuvik’s previous schools. (…) 


Outside, intricate sunshades on the façades leave winter light unimpeded to filter into the school, while protecting against the harsh 24-hour high-angle summer sunlight. “The sunscreens are a safeguard fabric too,” remarks Taylor, explaining that they deter vandalism. Many of Inuvik’s facilities are boarded up during the off-season and become targets for damage by weather or idle teens. Says Taylor, “The community didn’t want the building to look shut down or inaccessible after hours or during the summer–it needed to feel open and inviting all year round.” 


Underneath the school, Pin/Taylor used a steel adfreeze pile system–a common approach to foundations in the Northwest Territories. Contractors drilled holes up to 60 feet deep in the frozen ground, then dropped piles into the holes, surrounding them with a silica cement slurry which freezes over the span of several months, adhering the steel to the permafrost. The school is lifted off the ground, allowing cold winter air to move freely under the building to ensure that the ground remains frozen. 


To create accessible and welcoming grade-level entrances, a series of rock-filled gabion baskets slope the terrain up to the entrance level, ending in a retaining wall 10 feet from the face of the building. Bridges span over the moat between the top of the gabion walls and the entrances. The gently sloped, landscaped walkways leading to the school doors are a welcome change from the steps and ramps at the front of many Arctic buildings. [1]


[1]      Bernbaum, Piper. “Super-School.” Canadian Architect, March 31, 2014. https://www.canadianarchitect.com/super-school/.


Additional information:

“Beaufort Delta Education Council.” Beaufort Delta Education Council – Assisting students in achieving their maximum academic, personal, social and cultural development, through quality education. Accessed July 26, 2021. http://www.bdec.nt.ca/.


“Beaufort Delta Education Council.” Beaufort Delta Education Council. Accessed July 26, 2021. http://www.bdec.nt.ca/?page_id=56.


“East Three Elementary.” East Three Elementary, February 12, 2019. https://eastthreeelementary.wordpress.com/.


“East Three Secondary School.” Beaufort Delta Education Council. Accessed July 26, 2021. http://www.bdec.nt.ca/?page_id=54.


“Inuvik's East Three School Official Grand Opening.” Inuvik's East Three School Official Grand Opening. Government of the Northwest Territories. Accessed July 26, 2021. https://www.gov.nt.ca/fr/newsroom/inuvik%E2%80%99s-east-three-school-official-grand-opening.


Raver, Anna. “Permafrost Frontier.” Landscape Architecture Magazine, September 20, 2019. https://landscapearchitecturemagazine.org/2019/09/20/permafrost-frontier/#more-18670.


Project Title: East Three Schools
Artists:  Pin/Taylor Architects
Year: 2014

Place: Inuvik, Northwest Territories

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