While often described as resembling a bird preparing for flight, the enigmatic, yet elegant, all-wood form of this school suggests different creatures to different observers. The design draws inspiration from traditional First Nations longhouses, with a parallel-frame post-and-beam structure wrapped almost entirely in cedar-shingle cladding, its silvery, sloping trapezoidal shapes echoing the mountainous landscape of its Fraser Valley setting. Working side by side with the owners, the local Seabird Island Band, the architects designed a building with the potential to take on a life of its own.
Completed in 1988, before computer modelling was common, the design was conceived entirely through hand drawings and physical modelling. The school was built by members of the Seabird Island Band, which is a member of the Stó:lō Tribal Council. With no digital tools available at the time, the physical model became a critical tool for the construction team, illustrating how the framing was to be put together and helping to confirm the wood’s dimensions and measurements on-site. The project is celebrated for its collaborative, community-based approach, which provided training for members who worked on the project and drew on principles of co-design—a model that calls for architects working with Indigenous communities to listen extensively to community members and meaningfully incorporate their design ideas.