Canadian Architect

Feature

Governor General’s Medal Winner: Regent Park Aquatic Centre

WINNER OF A 2016 GOVERNOR GENERAL’S MEDAL IN ARCHITECTURE

May 19, 2016
by Canadian Architect

Designed as a one-storey pavilion, the aquatic centre greets visitors with a verandah-like canopy and glimpses of the pools inside.

Designed as a one-storey pavilion, the aquatic centre greets visitors with a verandah-like canopy and glimpses of the pools inside.

LOCATION Toronto, Ontario
ARCHITECT MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects (MJMA)
PHOTOS Shai Gil

Located in downtown Toronto and built in the late 1940s, Regent Park is Canada’s oldest and largest social housing project. The neighbourhood was originally envisioned as a transitional community for new immigrants. But, due to inadequate planning, it would become infamous for concentrating a socially marginalized population into a series of increasingly neglected building complexes. 41% of those living in Regent Park are under 18, and over 70% of the population lives below the low-income cut-off rate.

In 2005, the City began the Regent Park Revitalization initiative, a 12-year program to redevelop the 69 acres into a vibrant mixed-use, mixed-income community, and one of North America’s largest urban redevelopments. At the heart of the revitalization—centred on the eastern flank of the new central park development—the Regent Park Aquatic Centre enjoys pride of place as the neighbourhood’s key civic amenity.

A wood ceiling and line of skylights top the swimming areas.

A wood ceiling and line of skylights top the swimming areas.

Regent Park Aquatic Centre is a multi-purpose, year-round indoor swimming pool facility that includes a 25-metre six-lane pool, leisure pool, tot pool, hot tub, slide, tarzan rope, diving board and a large multi-purpose community room.

The “pavilion in the park”—as the centre was conceived—is very open at the base and bisected lengthwise by a “dorsal fin” of aquatic hall skylights. The building form was shaped by its solar orientation. A large canopy to the south forms a generous public verandah at the main entrance; and a low continuous window overlooking the park to the west provides views, while minimizing heat gain from the afternoon sun. Replacing an existing outdoor pool, the project captures a feeling of transparency and connection to the outdoors. It has sliding glass doors off the main pool hall for access to the park-side terrace, as well as natural ventilation opportunities. Responding to the views from the new high-rise towers surrounding the park, the building’s green roof is designed as a fifth elevation that integrates with the building features and with its park setting.

The centre fully opens out onto the main park in the redeveloped neighbourhood.

The centre fully opens out onto the main park in the redeveloped neighbourhood.

The Aquatic Centre is the first facility in Canada that provides universal change rooms exclusively. These common areas—with private cubicles—establish equality by addressing cultural and gender identity issues. They also enhance openness, safety and visibility throughout the entire complex.

In the last three decades, Regent Park has become an immigrant settlement community. As such, the Aquatic Centre offers a new level of accommodation, with the addition of a complete system of aquatics hall screening for those cultural groups interested in privacy swims. Interest in the City’s aquatic venues has been greatly increased by the adoption of this progressive feature, along with the universal change rooms, the combination of fitness, leisure, and therapeutic aquatic uses, and the open and inviting design. This project typifies the design legacy commitment of the Regent Park Revitalization program.

Universal change rooms with individual changing stalls allow for an exceptional degree of transparency and natural light throughout the facility.

Universal change rooms with individual changing stalls allow for an exceptional degree of transparency and natural light throughout the facility.

:: Jury :: While the jury commends the many fine aquatic and recreational centres that it reviewed in other Canadian cities, Regent Park Aquatic Centre stands out. This facility is sensitively connected to its surroundings. Open and transparent, it invites passersby and those using the adjacent park into its grand space that houses a sparkling pool and recreational facilities. It is a pavilion in the best sense, elevating the activities within and making them accessible. The green roof is the building’s fifth façade, completing Regent Park’s green environment.

CLIENT City of Toronto | ARCHITECT TEAM David Miller, Viktors Jaunkalns, Ted Watson, Andrew Filarski, Robert Allen, Troy Wright, Jeanne Ng, Siri Ursin, Kyung-Sun Hur, Cohen Chen, Carla Munoz | STRUCTURAL Blackwell Engineers | MECHANICAL/ELECTRICAL LKM Consulting Engineers Inc. | INTERIORS MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects | CONTRACTOR The Atlas Corporation | BUDGET $14.8 M | COMPLETION November 2016