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Canadian architecture medals favour innovation with wood

The award-winning structures include the world's highest all-timber office and a cliffside lookout. The 2016 Governor General's Medals in Architecture were awarded to a dozen of the country's most interesting projects on Thursday.

The 2016 Governor General’s Medals in Architecture were awarded on Thursday

The awards are decided by members of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and the Canada Council for the Arts and this year honour a dozen of the country's most interesting buildings, including this all-wood factory.

Architect John Hemsworth's 1,500-square-metre BC Passive House Factory, in Pemberton, B.C., is made of mostly Douglas fir and was designed to look like the boxy, prefabricated homes that are made inside it. 

(Canada Council for the Arts)
(Canada Council for the Arts)

The Wood Innovation and Design Centre is all wood, too.

At eight storeys, this building by Michael Green Architecture in Prince George, B.C., is one of the world's tallest all-timber structures. Its first three floors house the University of Northern British Columbia and above that is a campus of the Emily Carr University of Art and Design. On the top floors is office space.

(Canada Council for the Arts)
(Canadian Council for the Arts)

This is Amphithéâtre Cogeco, in Trois-Rivières, Que. 

Designed by Paul Laurendeau, the 9,000-seat performance venue, located at the fork of the St. Maurice and St. Lawrence rivers. is hailed for its excellent use of re-purposed industrial land. 

(Marc Gilbert/Adecoma.ca/Canada Council for the Arts)
(Marc Gilbert/Adecoma.ca/Canada Council for the Arts)

Bridgepoint Active Healthcare next to former jail.

This hospital expansion on Toronto's eastside butts up against the former Don Jail and features locally quarried stone and energy-saving exterior panels, plus 464 vertical windows — one for each patient the building is designed to hold.

(Canada Council for the Arts)
(Canada Council for the Arts)

Toronto's eastside also has a very fancy new pool. 

The Regent Park Aquatic Centre serves the community that grew around Canada's oldest and largest social housing project dating to the late 1940s. A revitalization of Regent Park that began in 2005 culminated in 2012 with the opening of the pool.

(Canada Council for the Arts)

Not all the winners are buildings.

The Glacier Skywalk, near Jasper Alta., was designed by Sturgess Architecture and overlooks the Columbia Icefields. It was built with the blessing of Parks Canada as a way to get tourists literally out into the environment without having to walk on the glacier.

(Robert Lemermeyer/Canada Council for the Arts)

The Halifax Central Library has crisscrossing stairs.

Architecture firm Fowler Bauld & Mitchell say the library, which opened in 2014, is the "most significant public building in Halifax in over a generation." Its top level is a giant glass reading lounge dubbed the Halifax Living Room and has views of the Citadel Hill Fortress and harbour.

(Adam Mørk/Canada Council for the Arts)
(Adam Mørk/Canada Council for the Arts)

The University of Manitoba also has cool stairs.

The 6,300-square-metre ARTLab is a renovation of the school's 1911 Taché Hall student housing building and was built as home to the music and art departments. 

(Canada Council for the Arts)

The revitalization of Nathan Phillips Square is a winner.

The public square in front of Toronto's City Hall (regarded in architecture circles as a Modernist icon by Viljo Revell) breathed new life into a space that had become rundown since its last significant overhaul in 1965. 

(Canada Council for the Arts)
(Canada Council for the Arts)

Ronald McDonald House meant to feel like home.

Built to benefit children receiving cancer treatment at B.C. Children's Hospital, in Vancouver, Ronald McDonald House can house up to 72 families. 

(Ema Peter Photography/Canada Council for the Arts)

Caisse Desjardins de Lévis is built into a hill.

The headquarters of the Desjardins credit union group, in Lévis, Que., was built to blend into the topography and features an open-concept design meant to bring workers and customers together. 

(Canada Council for the Arts)

The Wong Dai Sin Temple is like architectural tai chi.

This modern sacred space in Markham, Ont., houses the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism and represents the principles of  counterbalance and equilibrium and, like other Wong Dai Sin temples, is designed to take advantage of natural light.

(Canada Council for the Arts)
(Canada Council for the Arts)

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