Pinecrest Public School

1281 McWatters Road, Ottawa, ON.

Pinecrest Public School, designed by architect Michael Kohler, is arguably the most expressive of Ottawa’s post-war elementary schools.  Set within the Pinecrest suburb of modest, single-family homes in Ottawa’s west end, the school design was influenced by English architecture following the Festival of Britain.

Featuring an asymmetrical composition within a generous, park-like playground, the building is comprised of a two storey, linear wing of 30 classrooms that curves to subtly enfold a 16-sided, single storey pavilion to the south.  A single storey, glazed entrance links the two elements, framing an entry forecourt to the west and a kindergarten playground to the east.

The classroom wing with its double-loaded corridor has a parabolic curve deflecting the west end toward the south.  The south elevation is distinguished by cantilevered, concrete brise-soleil at both the first and second floors.  The classroom wing has a flat roof, while its exits at either end have metal canopies with a zig-zag profile.

The south pavilion is comprised of an octagonal gymnasium at the centre with a radial, folded plate roof and clerestorey windows.  A lower volume of kindergarten, cafeteria, and other facilities surrounds it.  These sixteen single-storey bays feature similar folded-plate roofs, and abundant glazing.

Both the linear wing and the pavilion feature an exposed, structural, concrete frame of repeated bays with infill of glazing above and brown brick in basket-weave coursing below.  The utilitarian building materials were employed with considerable attention to detail.

In the intervening years, a conventional gymnasium with a rectangular footprint was added to the east of the pavilion.  Aside from that, the original building survives remarkably intact.  The school and its landscape retain their relationship with the surrounding neighbourhood of curving, tree-lined streets and modest single-family houses.  Humanely scaled and playful in spirit, Pinecrest Public School has been in continuous use as a local elementary school for its community, since it opened.