2012 Canadian Architecture Awards of Excellence Edge Closer

West Coast Middle School

For the Canadian architecture sector, there are few greater platforms of recognition than the Canadian Architect Awards of Excellence. The annual awards program provides a platform for commissioned designed concepts that are either intended to be built, or in the initial stages of construction.

With the cut-off date just past, the esteemed jury members, including Williamson Chong architects principal architect Donald Chong, Coarchitecture partner Marie-Chantal Croft and DIALOG’s Bruce Haden will now evaluate the designs, focusing on areas of physical organization, form, structure, materials and environmental features. Jury members will also consider the clients’ briefs, sites, and geographical and social context for submissions.

At its most basic root, the architectural awards program is about form, function and structure, as was evident in last year’s winning designs.

B+H Bunting Coady Architects’ West Coast Middle School in British Columbia earned an excellence award last year, having been developed on the basis of creating an ‘environment for learning that captivates the imagination of the students and actively encourages exploration and growth.’

In a jury citation from last year, jury member Walter Francl noted just how all of these technical, structural and contextual goals were met.

“This project recasts the typology of the school and the environment that supports education,” he said. “Building forms abstracted from and nested into a terraced natural setting, reconnecting student and teacher with the landscape. This would be a wonderful place to be a student or a teacher.”


Architectural firm gh3 Architects and consulting engineers R.V. Anderson Associates Limited Storm Water Quality Facility (SWQF) also caught the jury’s eye.

According to the designers, the Ontario-based treatment centre represents the next stage in modern infrastructure design and performance.

“While the project represents state-of-the-art handling and treatment of storm water, the design for the facility enclosure and site also elevates the spatial role of the infrastructure, evoking other historic infrastructural works–the R.C. Harris Treatment Plant, the Bloor Street Viaduct, and the Hearn Power Station–whose architectural character has helped define Toronto’s identity,” they said.

According to the jury, the design again showed a contextual sophistication, a factor that will no doubt again hold sway at this year’s awards.

“A concise urban insertion, exquisitely polished and set with lapidary precision into the site,” Francl said of the winning entry. “It is at once enigmatic and compelling in its simplicity. A beautifully crafted piece that engages both its plaza forecourt and the public in the dialogue about a valued resource.”

With last year’s standards set so high, this year’s awards program have much to live up to. With the talent in Canada, however, it seems likely the awards will bring the country’s best into the global spotlight.

By Emily D’Alterio
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