The Educational system of British Columbia had its origin on this site. B.C.’s first public school, first high school and second college began here.
Under the direction of James Douglas of the Hudson’s Bay Company, a log cabin school, for boys only, was opened. Ten acres of land were set aside for a school site.
A brick, two-story building, designed by Teague (architect for City Hall) was erected. The girls were on the upper floor, and the boys were on the lower.
The first high school in B.C. was established in the log cabin.
An extension was added to the Central School to accommodate high school students.
A two-story addition was built onto the old building for Girls’ Central. By 1888, there were 730 students: 350 boys, 300 girls, and 80 high school students.
A separate, three-story high school was built facing Fernwood Road. This was the only school building that Rattenbury ever designed.
Victoria College, affiliated with McGill University, opened in the old High School building.
Victoria High School opened in its present location.
Central was established as a Junior High in the old building of Boys’ and Girls’ Central.
By now, all the old buildings were demolished and the new Central Junior High, designed by Wade & Stockdill, was opened.
Central instituted the quarter system.
Central became one of the first two schools in the Greater Victoria School District to reconfigure as a middle school. Under its new configuration it enrols students in grades 6 through 8.
In an effort to seismically upgrade the school, a rebuilding of most of it was begun. During this year long project the school was relocated to the empty building that was formerly Richmond elementary.
Central returned to its Fort street site and opened the year in its new and beautiful building.
History of the Modern Building
Central School architect John Wade designed a T-shaped plan of reinforced concrete, organizing circulation around a central stair tower. The classroom wing is balanced by the mass of the gymnasium block, and the main entrance is marked by the curving wall of the administration offices. Huge windows allow natural light to flood into classrooms, stairwells and corridors, a key element in the humanization of school buildings.
Garyali Architects’ 2011 seismic upgrade and retrofit of Central School provided an opportunity to reorder both the interior and exterior. Working closely with the teachersand students, the architects developed a contemporary narrative for the design. The goal was to conserve the integrity of the original structure but further humanize both function and aesthetics.
• The functional geometry of the original building provided a template on which quite playful elements could be introduced.
• Seismic reinforcing provided an opportunity to introduce new bas-relief concrete sculptural elements: the central façade seismic buttress is treated as a stylized fir tree, the auditorium exterior shear-wall sports a low-relief mural illustrating a building history of Victoria.
• Reworked fenestration patterns adopted a period but Mondrian inspired grid treatment and colour scheme, a reference to the abstract Expressionist roots of Modernist architecture itself.
• A contemporary design process involving community, students and teachers resulted in a new aesthetic treatment of the original building, further softening the severe Brutalism of form.
• The design update respects the main structural elements and the original functional program while adapting it to contemporary approaches in teaching and curriculum design.
• Interior spatial arrangements were redesigned to provide a transparent flow through rooms and create meeting and gathering places.
The reordering of interior space to a more open plan has adapted the school to 21st century teaching practices and curricula. The full seismic and services upgrade to contemporary codes has dramatically improved building resilience ensuring further generations of educational use.
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