Field of Dreams: Re-Imagining an Athletic Experience

The idea of the boarding school, while originating in Britain, was established in Canada in the late 18th century by United Empire Loyalists, intending to expand their educational mandate abroad. Today, King’s-Edgehill School in Nova Scotia is the oldest boarding school, established to set the standard of education for expanding the British Empire.

Today, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame (Notre Dame) is one of more than 64 CAIS boarding schools across Canada. Located on the barren, wind-swept southern plains of Wilcox, Saskatchewan, the college was founded, by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, as Notre Dame of the Prairies in 1920 (French for “Our Lady, Notre Dame refers to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patroness of the school). Father James Athol Murray arrived in 1927 and initiated the high school program, grades 9-12.

Notre Dame is a private, independent, co-educational boarding high school rooted in the Catholic tradition and open to students from all backgrounds. The college is world-renowned for its balanced yet challenging academics and its exceptional hockey and athletic programs. It focuses primarily on giving young men and women a safe place to grow morally, physically, academically, and spiritually in the Catholic tradition while maintaining an ecumenical philosophy. The motto for the school, “Struggle and Emerge,” inspires each student to take the initiative with their life and to strive to "achieve with character" in all of their endeavours.

This design thesis will explore the contemporary significance and connotations of elite-level hockey training, sport and society, as well as kinaesthetic aptitude in a rural Saskatchewan setting. It will address contemporary athletic forms, objectives, and preparation as stimulated by innovation in advanced sport psychology, physiology and technology. These architectural investigations will demarcate and respond to the role of “sport” featured in society and Canadian culture, and as a response to the neighbouring land and local community. High school education will be defined in consideration of athletic demands and more complex forms of learning highlighting collaboration, public influence, leadership and communication. These concepts, knowledge and principles will inform the architectural design of a major facility expansion for the hockey/athletic program at the remote Athol Murray College of Notre Dame boarding school in south-central Saskatchewan.