Phantom Wing is your school experience reimagined. There is a party complete with vinyl and pink fairy lights in the girls bathroom, the lockers hang like keyboard keys from the ceiling and there’s a Rube Goldberg Machine style fountain in the court yard. The project is what happens when artists get to take over a school and reimagine it.
The project itself is gorgeous as will be the arts space that is slotted to be built afterwards. If you haven’t taken in any Doors Open YYC events and you’re in the Calgary area it should top your list.
They didn’t transform just any school. King Edward School is one of Calgary’s historic sandstones schools that was built during the boom years around 1912. I was lucky to attend Ecole King George Elementary School, one of these fine buildings. My experience there was made better by the knowledge that our school had a history. Our classrooms were almost a hundred years old (and are now 101). We studied there just like the kids of 1912 did, just like the kids of 2112 would.
Our school felt more like a castle than an educational institution. It had creaks and open spaces. The main entrance from the schoolyard had “Boys” written above it while the side entrance by the gym read “Girls” an homage to the time when boys and girls were separated. The basement was terrifying. In second and third grade there was a general consensus that it was inhabited by Bloody Mary and was to be avoided at all costs. There was a rumour that the ghost of a WWI soldier inhabited the art supply room. We had a bell tower.
It is great that these spaces have been repurposes and often times for uses by arts groups like the Alexandra Centre in Inglewood and the future Cspace building. However, it’s also a shame that fewer and fewer kids growing up in Calgary get to experience learning in one of these historic classrooms. They either get shiny new schools in the suburbs or those built during the ’60s and ’70s, a time when architects forget about the value of natural lighting and windows. We got to have our ghosts, our stories and a constant reminder of the grandeur of history. They will not.
It is increasingly rare that our city’s historic schools are actually schools and today’s kids are missing out on the chance to learn and grow in these spaces.