CIGI Campus

PROJECT Centre for International Governance Innovation Campus, Waterloo, Ontario
ARCHITECT Kuwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects
PHOTOS Maris Mezulis and Tom Arban

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) Campus, an independent non-partisan think tank for international governance, is a shared initiative by CIGI, the University of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier University. The specific objectives were to create a building to last for at least 100 years that feels like a “vibrant sanctuary” yet is “functional not fancy.” It also had to have a courtyard and a bell tower. Located on the only site in Canada bounded by three Governor General’s Award-winning projects–the Perimeter Institute by Saucier + Perrotte Architectes, the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery by Patkau Architects, and the former Seagram Museum by Barton Myers–design excellence was mandated. Finally, it had to make a valuable contribution as an intellectual and social counterpoint to the city of Waterloo’s prominent high-tech industry.

A conversion of the former Seagram Distillery (1857) into a campus comprising a 19th-century barrel house with a new academic building, the plan is sited to create a pedestrian path between the existing and new buildings. The main elevation with its large-scale entrance canopy and bell tower establishes a bold identity for CIGI, while providing a contextual response to the 19th-century masonry buildings in scale, proportions and materials.

The design presents a contemporary reinterpretation of a traditional academic quad. The plan organizes two three-storey double-bar buildings and an auditorium pavilion around a central courtyard. The ground floor is continuous and highly public. Solid masonry elevations facing the street are contrasted with three-storey glazed elevations facing the courtyard. Classrooms, auditorium and offices are accessed from a continuous cloister furnished with seating and fireplaces to invite people to cross paths and share ideas. The social spaces are balanced with a series of private offices to support focused thinking.

Responding to the goal of lasting for 100 years, the materials and methods of construction prioritize quality, longevity and low maintenance. A limited palette of local limestone and brick masonry, Douglas fir and glass create a serene atmosphere to encourage deep thinking and research. 

Rather than pursue a certified LEED rating, it was decided to invest in long-term durability using quality materials and local contractors, suppliers and materials. CIGI is one of the first buildings in Ontario to use BubbleDeck systems to eliminate more than 30% of the dead-load weight, achieving reductions in both columns and beams for greater space savings. It also achieved 30% cost savings in concrete material and carbon emissions.

The design has fast-tracked CIGI’s standing as an increasingly respected think tank in global affairs. The interconnected environment has attracted some of the world’s brightest experts in international affairs. The public spaces–pavilion, courtyard and meeting spaces–provide a valuable asset to the local community and are available for rent at affordable rates for outreach collaborations. The CIGI Campus demonstrates the tangible benefit architecture has to play in creating vibrant cities and communities that come together locally to make a positive impact globally.

Jury The jury salutes the elegant restraint of this project. Its roof overhang attracts the eye without being attention-grabbing; it calmly engages its patrimonial neighbour and prefigures the physical comfort to come inside. Careful use of materials evokes a sense of comfort and longevity. A well-proportioned landscaped courtyard furthers the serenity and liveability of the centre. A profoundly humane environment is achieved. CA

Client Balsillie School of International Affairs | Architect Team Shirley Blumberg, Steven Casey, Bruce Kuwabara, Joy Charbonneau, Glenn MacMullin, George Bizios, Erik Jensen, Vivian Chin, Ramon Janer, Carolyn Lee, Danielle Sucher | Structural Blackwell Bowick Partnership | Mechanical Crossey Engineering | Electrical HH Angus & Associates | Civil Conestoga Rovers & Associates | Energy Transsolar | LIGHTING Tillotson Design Associates | Acoustics Aercoustics Engineering Ltd. | Audio-Visual Engineering Harmonics | Landscape PFS Studio | Planning GSP Group | Building Code Leber | Rubes | Costing Turner & Townsend cm2r | Contractor Cooper Construction | Area 10,700 m2 | Budget withheld | Completion September 2011