Bend It Like Brampton

PROJECT Brampton Soccer Centre, Brampton, Ontario

DESIGNER MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects

TEXT Leslie Jen

PHOTOS Tom Arban

Paradoxically, recent trends in architectural development suggest that perhaps the most sophisticated and adventurous buildings can be found in the suburban fringes of Canadian cities. David Theodore certainly seems to think so, when he asserts that “contemporary architecture may be more at home in the ‘burbs than downtown,” referencing the Collge Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes in Longueuil, Quebec (see CA, October 2007). Of course, bringing urban place-making to suburbia is probably a little less challenging when dealing with the tabula rasa of wide open spaces and little or no historical context to which to respond. Nonetheless, the Brampton Soccer Centre communicates a real sense of place and destination at the busy intersection of Dixie Road and Sandalwood Parkway in northern Brampton, the fastest-growing community in the Greater Toronto Area.

With a great deal of experience in designing recreation and community centres, MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJM) easily won a limited competition for this project in 2003, which initially was intended to be a more generic type of arena complex that could accommodate a variety of sports such as hockey, volleyball and basketball. Over time, changes at the City of Brampton–the client–meant a shift in perspective towards a more specific purpose. Addressing the shortage of indoor soccer facilities in the region, the decision to create a facility dedicated to this one sport was also predicated on the fact that a large percentage of Brampton’s population is comprised of South Asian immigrants–for whom soccer is the favoured sport, as opposed to hockey, for decades the defining heroic Canadian obsession and critical component of our national identity.

In the design brief, the client specified a city-wide year-round indoor “Soccer Centre of Excellence,” a landmark building of a high standard and quality, and one that would advocate and promote sport, community and the brand of the city. In addition to the provision of four indoor soccer fields, the wish list also included an outdoor program of four soccer fields, two cricket pitches, two professional-sized basketball courts, and two parking areas to accommodate over 700 vehicles. To address potential future changes in use, the four indoor soccer fields were carefully designed with flexibility in mind such that the dimensions of the fields and the height of the ceiling can also accommodate both hockey and volleyball. Each of the indoor fields was also designed to house up to 1,200 people for small trade shows and large-scale events. Additionally, a community wing comprises a series of multipurpose rooms for local programming, and an open seniors’ activity area is accessible off the main lobby.

The primary challenge in this project was massing, due to the sheer size needed to accommodate such an ambitious program. The firm began with several massing variations, and the client, wisely recognizing the need for some semblance of urbanism and civic structure, ultimately favoured the scheme that broke the building down into two separate masses, sliding past each other in parallel, which created an interesting three-part zig-zag corridor configuration. This scheme also created two important outdoor areas: the main arrivals area facing the interior of the site, and a pedestrian-scaled activity plaza occupying the northeast corner of the site oriented toward the street intersection. Extremely popular in warmer months, the latter animates this important corner condition and functions as a civic court, programmed with playgrounds, stages and a splash pad; the plaza forms a natural outdoor extension of the community rooms in the building which open onto it.

Mass is further broken down via accessibility and permeability of the building, which is achieved through a multiplicity of entrances on the south, east and west sides; there is no “back” elevation to the building. It is permeable in terms of the transparency attained within the volumes and even quite literally right through the building. Contrary to most sports facilities which can often resemble blank big-box warehouses devoid of natural light and views, here, copious amounts of glazing both on the exterior and interior walls offer constant views into and through the soccer fields, to the outdoor spaces and the street, and even within the building itself to the sophisticated sectionally layered moments. Moreover, the ceilings of the circulation spines are elevated and top-lit through the provision of skylights and clerestories, reducing the need for artificial lighting.

The degree of detail in the building is remarkable, in that this level of resolution is usually seen in much smaller projects. Due in large part to the client’s enlightened view and desire for a sustainable building of superior quality, the MJM team devoted 18,000 hours to the design of this project, and the results unequivocally raise the bar for this building typology. Consequently, an authentic building texture is created through the employment of a variety of materials and a clear articulation of form. There is a pleasing contrast and relationship among the deep wood overhangs, the smooth curtain wall, the irregularly arranged corrugated steel panels, and the boldly coloured graphics and playful imagery.

A predominantly white and silver colour palette is offset by the judicious employment of vibrant saturated colours in a plethora of applications, colours specifically chosen to communicate the active and energetic colours associated with athletics and athletic attire. To that end, horizontal bands of coloured glass are used sparingly on the curtain walls to animate the faades and to create jewel-toned splashes of light on the interior. High-contrast black and white tiles define the floor surfaces, a clever reference to the colours–or lack thereof–found in soccer balls and referee jerseys. And various shades of pale blue and icy white mosaic tiles applied to interior vertical surfaces further reinforce the city’s brand and official colour, “Brampton Blue.” As a counterpoint to the overall cool colour palette, the warmth of natural cedar is liberally applied throughout the building on the interior and exterior soffits.

Critical to the success of this building is the implementation of a graphic strategy throughout. In meeting the client’s demand for a landmark building, graphics, colour and imagery operate to attract visitors to the facility. The graphic images were conceived to convey the excitement of the larger-than-life actions of sports heroes in influential advertising campaigns. In our media-saturated culture, we are conditioned to respond immediately to the image: here, the image is seamlessly incorporated into the architecture.

Building as suburban billboard became part of the strategy to communicate the exuberance of sport and to promote the activities within the facility. The billboard effect is achieved through custom-designed panels comprised of a graphic vinyl interlayer sandwiched between laminated glass. These panels are utilized on the lobby balustrades, and more importantly, on the south and west faades of the building at a huge abstract scale. Accordingly, the images can be seen from a good distance away: on the south faade, a photographic image of a massive soccer ball against a net is awash in Brampton Blue. Even at night, the image is backlit, glowing like a beacon, a striking attraction to vehicular traffic travelling on Dixie Road.

And like a beacon, the Brampton Soccer Centre attracts visitors like moths to a flame. Post-occupancy feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Even though the building was only completed in June of this year during the soccer off-season, the fields were fully booked all summer long for pickup soccer games. One-fifth of Brampton’s summer camp program operated out of the facility, and
with so many activities available on site, hundreds of little backpackers simply took over the building and grounds. Just six months old, this building has proven itself in its accommodation of a number of activities beyond the scope of soccer. In this project, the City of Brampton truly got everything they desired and more, and the community has reciprocated, expressing its gratitude through a Brampton Urban Design Award of Excellence that was bestowed upon MJM earlier this year.

CLIENT CITY OF BRAMPTON

ARCHITECT TEAM JIM BURKITT, MARC DOWNING, ANDREW FILARSKI, VIKTORS JAUNKALNS, PATRICK KNISS, LUCAS KOS, DAN KRONBY, JOHN MACLENNAN, DAVID MILLER, JEANNE NG, CAROL PHILLIPS, TAMIRA SAWATZKY, JANE SON, TED WATSON (PROJECT ARCHITECT)

STRUCTURAL BLACKWELL BOWICK PARTNERSHIP

MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL LKM AND PARTNERS CONSULTING ENGINEERS

LANDSCAPE STRYBOS BARRON KING LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTS

CIVIL RAND ENGINEERING

CONTRACTOR THE ATLAS CORPORATION

SPECIFICATIONS BRIAN BALLANTYNE SPECIFICATIONS

COST CONSULTANT A.W. HOOKER COST CONSULTANTS

CODE CONSULTANT LEBER RUBES FIRE PROTECTION AND LIFE SAFETY

GROUND FLOOR AREA 14,200 M2

BUDGET $28 M

COMPLETION SPRING 2007

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