Cheakamus Centre | Blueshore Environmental Learning Centre

Type of Building
Commercial & Industrial, Education, Tourism & Specialty
1,000 sq. m.
McFarland Marceau Architects Ltd.
Structural Engineer
Equilibrium Consulting Inc.
Project Owner
North Vancouver School District
Cross-laminated timber (CLT), Glue-laminated timber (glulam), Siding

Project Overview

Situated along the bank of the Cheakamus River in a 175-hectare ecological reserve just north of Squamish, this educational building (formerly the North Vancouver Outdoor School) is one of only a few such places in Canada that offer an overnight environmental educational experience. Five thousand children and six thousand adults visit the centre annually. Brackendale is in Squamish Nation Traditional Territory, and the programs offered by the centre draw on Indigenous practices of environmental stewardship. The diverse biological landscape of forests, wild salmon streams, and amphibian ponds serve as its expanded “outdoor classroom.”

Wood Use

Primarily constructed of wood, the “treehouse” design—a simple, modernist, rectilinear box—includes a large reception and dining area; multi-purpose classrooms; event and exhibit spaces; and an outdoor amphitheatre. When looking to its north or south elevation, the building appears to float amid the surrounding forest. Its structure is composed of glue-laminated timber posts and beams and cross-laminated timber floors, raised above the floodplain of the Cheakamus River on steel columns affixed to concrete raft slab. The ceiling is finished with reclaimed Douglas-fir and its exterior is wrapped with vertical cedar cladding. The building’s elevated stance brings the surrounding forest into view for students, whose connection to the landscape is further enhanced by its exterior balcony.