Friday, 15 July 2011

What is the Potlotek Design Build?

The Potlotek First Nation is located on the southeastern shore of the Bras D'Or Lakes in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.  The reserve comprises 592.5 hectares and is home to approximately 654 community members.

Inspired by the vision "Let's raise our sails and then sail away," the Potlotek community places a high value on education.  The Mi'kmawey Elementary School has 55 students, and the Potlotek High School, opened in February 2011, has approximately 35 students.  The community also offers two adult learning programs. Currently, the new high school competes with the adult courses for classroom space in the Education Administration Office; thus, the need for a new high school building has been identified as a priority for Potlotek.

Education Administration Building (currently the high school)

Elementary School

The Cities and Environment Unit (CEU) at Dalhousie University in Halifax was engaged by the Potlotek First Nation to facilitate a community engagement process leading to the design and build of a new high school.  CEU ran three sets of workshops from April to July 2011, with the purposes of identifying community values, developing program ideas and guiding principles for the project, and determining how the site and design could be developed in a way that best meets the needs of the community.  CEU engaged with the Elders, high school students, education staff, and general community in order to ensure the broadest range of ideas and opinions.

Engaging high school students at workshop 1 

 Investigating a potential site for the new high school 

Presenting and verifying background information at workshop 1 

Discussing the project with Potlotek Elders at workshop 1

A major part of the community engagement process is identifying components of projects that can be implemented immediately to ensure that a plan doesn’t lose momentum.  For Potlotek, there is an immediate need for an outdoor education equipment storage building.  The high school is acquiring 6 canoes, 10 kayaks, and a variety of other equipment, with nowhere to store it securely.

The outdoor education equipment storage building will be designed and built by a small group of architecture students from Dalhousie University, led by CEU staff, and working with the high school students and other Potlotek community members.  This design/build project will run from July 15th to 28th, challenging the architecture students and the Potlotek community to think quickly and make the most of local skills and resources.  Check back often for updates from the field!

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