Modern Office of Design + Architecture
WINNER OF A 2019 CANADIAN ARCHITECT AWARD OF EXCELLENCE
Robotics company ATTAbotics had an unusual vision for its new headquarters. The client “referenced the spatial organization and complex circulation of ant colonies,” say the architects. These systems had inspired the company’s proprietary robotic storage and retrieval system. It was also how they wanted their manufacturing and office space to function.
The site is part of Calgary’s airport district, so the architects began by examining Navigation Canada’s regulations for the location. To ensure the safety of aircraft, the building had to fit within an envelope that rises along a 7 percent slope to a height of 23 metres. This ordinance produced a wedge-like massing.
Plazas carved into the slope connect the building to the exterior and frame views to the city and mountains. A ribbon of movement develops between the plazas and interior spaces, stitched together with appropriate programming. Building users can meander through, around and over the building.
The building’s manufacturing section requires tall ceilings, clear spans and a rectilinear footprint to allow for future flexibility. This facility is located on the lower two floors, which sink into the landscape. Canyon-like voids provide for light, access, parking and loading areas. The office spaces perch above this plinth-like base.
A central atrium acts as a fulcrum for the plan and doubles as an informal, company-wide auditorium. This produces a complex sectional relationship between various elements of the program—similar to the organizational systems inherent in ant colonies. It also transforms the way that building users navigate around the building and socialize.
The construction looks to current developments in circular design. Instead of the cradle-to-landfill norm, it takes a cradle-to-cradle approach. The architects are pursuing a Design for Disassembly (DfD) model that allows for the reuse of building components. This aligns with the client’s desire for a flexible environment. The building can quickly change, responding to needs for future growth or renewal as they arise.
Rami Bebawi :: I really like the materiality with the veils and transparency. There’s a potential for the designers to play with the density of the mesh, which can start to inform the wayfinding of the building. Is it possible to have three dimensions of holes—from smaller for more private areas, to larger for more public areas? If there is a comment to be made, it’s the parking—maybe there was a way to work this into the landscape.
Joe Lobko :: This is a powerful structure: the building is both vertically and horizontally shaped to its location adjacent an airport. An iconic building design has emerged from a thoughtful, incredibly creative analysis of context and program. The roofscape will be very special. Ant colonies indeed!
Cindy Wilson :: I appreciate the architects’ future-thinking of the building disassembling into components, making the structure adaptable and flexible. The ant metaphor continues through the life cycle of the building.
CLIENT ATTAbotics Inc. | AREA 11,150 M2 | BUDGET $50 M | STATUS Design Development | ANTICIPATED COMPLETION Spring 2022
PROJECTED ENERGY USE INTENSITY (EUI) 200kWh/m2/year
PROJECTED WATER USE INTENSITY (WUI) 3.9m3/m2/year