Gordonstoun design speaks to local history, heritage
Architecture pays tribute to past; founding principal search looks to future
BY LAWRENCE POWELL
For Annapolis County
UPPER CLEMENTS, NS – Details are emerging about the architectural design of Gordonstoun Nova Scotia with attention paid to local history and heritage.
And designs have been re-worked to make the new school Covid proof.
Developer Ed Farren released an architect’s drawing of the soon-to-be-constructed administration and student centre building flanked by academic structures on each side. They are part of Phase 1 of construction and when you see the administration building, it might remind you of the officers’ quarters at Fort Anne in nearby Annapolis Royal.
That was intentional, said Farren, whose franchise in Annapolis County of the famous international boarding school was the first ever granted by Gordonstoun Scotland whose links to Nova Scotia date back hundreds of years.
“We really wanted the design to be placed in Annapolis County, Nova Scotia, and the Fort Anne concept and its historical significances ties in with the historical significance of Gordonstoun, Sir Robert Gordon, and Gordonstoun Nova Scotia,” said Farren.
The main building within the Scottish school, Gordonstoun House, was originally owned by Sir Robert Gordon who was made a baronet for Nova Scotia in 1625, four years after the official charter giving Nova Scotia its name and flag. The charter is kept at Fort Anne, also the site of Charles Fort, often called Scots Fort, established by Scottish settlers in 1629.
Farren sees Gordonstoun Nova Scotia and Fort Anne, although centuries apart, as bookends on the same stretch of shoreline in a very exciting location.
Farren said construction, to begin in early 2021, is on time and will proceed on a financially responsible schedule with the first phase completed to such an extent that the school can open for the founding principal and staff the same year.
“Phase 1 will also see the construction of the dining hall and student residence accommodations complete with showers in each student room as part of the construction that is designed to be Covid proof,” Farren said.
Farren met with architects Oct. 9. The drawing depicts what the public will see when coming from the apple orchard and down through the tree-lined drive as visitors enter toward what was the admissions building for the Upper Clements Park.
“Faculty housing will also be constructed as part of Phase 1 as well as a sports field and other amenities,” Farren said.
The school is being built on the site of the former Upper Clements Parks that were on the verge of bankruptcy when the Municipality of the County of Annapolis offered to purchase the 250-acre property for the Gordonstoun Nova Scotia project.
“We’ve changed the design, certainly from my original concepts when we first started this project when we were building a traditional school,” said Farren. “A traditional school is no longer practical in this climate, this new circumstance we find ourselves in. We’re fortunate that we’re beginning construction now rather than earlier.”
He said they’ve set aside their original plans and have come up with a new set that is Covid friendly, or for any other problem that might arise. He pointed to the showers in each residence room, touchless water fountains, and more.
“The buildings are constructed in a pod format so that if any problem were to arise in one part of a residence building that pod can be isolated from the remaining part of structure so the problem can be contained,” he said.
He also said the plans are working towards a net-zero carbon footprint with solar energy, geothermal heating, greenhouse-to-table for food, including what the school will buy from local farmers, and local butchers and bakery shops to feed the students.
“We’re very excited about Gordonstoun,” said Jennifer D’Aubin of D’Aubin Family Meats in Bridgetown. She was at the original Gordonstoun Nova Scotia announcement in December of 2018 and has been following developments on the project. “Ever since the announcement we have been on the edge of our seat waiting for updates. When they said they were committed to supporting local and specifically mentioned ‘butchers’ our hearts skipped a beat. Not only are we a local butcher shop, but we source all our goods locally, so an increase in business for us is a direct benefit to the local agricultural community.”
D’Aubin believes the bounty the Annapolis Valley has to offer is of superior quality, so it’s a win all around – for local businesses and for Gordonstoun.
“Our business currently employs 14 people,” she said. “We have been discussing expanding, especially once we learn what the demand from Gordonstoun will be. That will mean hiring even more people.”
The $62-million school is expected to create 100 jobs directly and 150 indirectly, bringing millions of dollars into the local economy annually.
Farren was busy Wednesday morning writing a thankyou email to the team in London that has started the search for the founding principal of Gordonstoun Nova Scotia. “I’m very excited by the discussion we had,” he said. “It’s a global search and the team in London are committed to finding the very best person to lead the school and to integrate the school with the community. They’re looking globally for this individual because students will come from many parts of the world as well.”
Farren said the skills the person selected must possess are: Excellent leadership skills in hands-on motivation, organization, and teambuilding; global in outlook and experience; strong interest in the safety, personal and intellectual growth of the faculty, staff, and students at Gordonstoun Nova Scotia; keen attention to the Gordonstoun ethos and brand; and outreach to the community.
Experiential learning is key to the Gonrdonstoun concept, making community partnerships integral to the school’s success and outreach by the principal and staff a necessity. Farren has already approached a local environmental organization to gage the willingness to work with Gordonstoun students. He said the support was enthusiastic and immediate.
Farren said the principal and staff will be in place to in September 2021 and have time to have a fully functioning school ready to go for the first group of students in 2022.
- Gordonstoun Nova Scotia will be the first franchise of Gordonstoun Scotland.
- The school will be constructed on the 250-acre site of the former Upper Clements Parks.
- The international private school, when fully operational, will bring more than 600 students to Annapolis County annually.
- Students will be from Canada (1/3), the United States (1/3), and the rest of the world (1/3).
- The school will directly create 100 new jobs and another 150 indirectly.
- It is expected local businesses will prosper from Gordonstoun’s presence, new businesses will be established, and home sales will increase.
- The facilities will be of net zero energy construction.
- Economic impact would include wages annually of $6.5 million; operations expenditures (excluding food) of $5.9 million; and administrative expenditures of $594,000.
- Will provide approximately $13 million annually in wages under the Gordonstoun pay scales when in full enrollment of 600 students.
- Gordonstoun Nova Scotia, announced in December 2018, is expected to open to staff in the autumn of 2021 and the first cohort of students in 2022.
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