Awards of Excellence 2004 – Vaughan Civic Centre

Vaughan, Ontario

Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects

The winning scheme in a design competition, the new Vaughan Civic Centre will be located in the community of Maple within the City of Vaughan. Originally an agriculturally oriented hinterland located at the northern edge of Metropolitan Toronto, Vaughan is in the process of making the transition from its rural past to an urban future. Since 1981, the town has grown from approximately 30,000 to 220,000, witnessing unprecedented growth and consequently replacing farmland with housing and big box retail. The intent of the new Civic Centre is to set a tone for environmentally responsible and civic- minded development in the 21st century.

The design concept is based around the idea of cultivating a civic landscape. The diverse program encompassing 325,000 square feet is broken down into various components to create a civic campus of low-rise structures that define a public terrain of open and enclosed spaces. The overall program includes the City Hall, the Chamber of Commerce, a Civic Tower, and a Public Library building. Landscape elements include the Civic Square, reflecting pool/skating rink, public gardens and naturalized park. To acknowledge the city’s agricultural heritage, the campus is laid out according to a series of east-west bands that reference the linear pattern of land cultivation which once characterized the region, as well as the larger framework of the concession grid.

Formally, the scheme reinterprets civic typologies. The order of buildings is inspired by the clarity of Ontario town planning where City Hall, Civic Square, Market and Cenotaph define an identifiable civic precinct. The concept also draws from the tradition of the European square, or piazza, where architecture is used to define flexible central spaces for meeting, demonstration and celebration.

Recognizing the City’s goal for future flexibility, one of the greatest challenges of the competition was to resolve the requirement for over 900 surface parking spaces which would have directly contradicted the City’s civic vision, consumed parkland, and visibly undermined the environmental statement of the City. The design concept challenged the original requirement, instead proposing a combination of short-term surface parking with substantial underground parking. The solution resulted in providing the necessary civic infrastructure to accommodate the long-term development goals for the site.

Monteyne: This project finds an appropriate balance between civic monumentality and bureaucratic necessity. It is an honest response to the difficulty of physically representing civic life within the world of sprawl. Its subdued formal language conveys an appropriate sense of gravitas and suggests, along with designing for growth and expansion, that this civic centre will have a longer shelf life than other recent attempts at similar programs.

Shnier: The overwhelming scale of this project is controlled by developing a refined architectural language, and suggests a hybrid of institutional and commercial forms. The elegant resolution of this language could produce monumentality that is tempered by an almost surreal collection of basic forms. What is not as clear in the proposal as illustrated to the jury, is how the vast space between the constituent elements of the design will be handled.

Yarinsky: It is unusual to see a large government building treated as a series of interconnected blocks–the balance between building and exterior space makes for a richness of experience within the project. The simplicity of the articulation of the blocks reinforces this space-making, which also gives the project flexibility to allow for changing uses on the interior.

Client: City of Vaughan

Architect team: Bruce Kuwabara, Luigi LaRocca, Kevin Bridgman, Tyler Sharp, Andrea Macaroun, Javier Uribe, Norm Li

Structural: Yolles Partnership Inc.

Mechanical: Keen Engineering

Electrical: Keen Engineering

Landscape: Philips Farvaag Smallenberg

Traffic and Municipal Consultant: LEA Consulting Ltd.

LEED Consultant: DST Consulting Engineers

Sustainability Consultant: Keen Engineering

Area: 325,000 ft2

Budget: $76 million

Completion: 2010