KPMB Architects’ CIGI campus wins 2014 AIA Honor Award for Architecture

The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Waterloo, Ontario by Toronto-based Kuiwabara Payne McKenna Blumberg Architects was recently announced as a recipient of a 2014 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture by the American Institute of Architects. It was the only Canadian project recognized in this category.

Located on a 3.9-acre site formerly occupied by the Seagram distillery, the campus is a reinterpretation of a traditional academic quad building based on the Oxford model, and also houses the Balsillie School of International Affairs.

The client asked for a campus to last at least 100 years, a “vibrant sanctuary” to facilitate reflection, collaboration, and discussion. The solution consists of two three-storey interconnected buildings and an auditorium pavilion organized around a courtyard.

The scale, proportions and materials of the brick elevations facing the street are a direct response to the 19th-century masonry industrial buildings in the surrounding neighbourhood. In contrast, three-storey glazed elevations face the courtyard to promote face-to-face interactions among the students and scholars who frequent the Centre.

Classrooms, offices, and the auditorium are organized off a spacious, continuous corridor. Much like a cloister, the corridor features floor-to-ceiling windows facing the courtyard, and it is furnished with seating and fireplaces to invite chats and collaboration. The program also includes private spaces for work requiring quiet and concentration. A limited palette of local limestone and brick masonry, wood, and glass was used to create a serene atmosphere for study and reflection. The materials are natural and long-wearing, and they promote the local economy and identity.

In addition to sustainable materials, the building features a Bubble Deck system, which was used to reduce carbon emissions associated with concrete. The system displaces 30 percent of concrete by placing air bubbles within the concrete slab. The bubbles reduce the weight of the concrete, which results in thinner, longer structural spans.

According the the jury: The scale, simplicity and richness of the entry, with its huge canopy, seem very appropriate for an international governance institution. The materials are wonderful—rich and warm—and every detail addresses the street. The building feels humble, yet sophisticated. It reinvents ways of using light; it uses the reflection off of the white masonry walls to illuminate the space. The sustainable program and design are well integrated. The openness of the architecture reflects the nature of the program—transparency of governance.

The jury for the 2014 Institute Honor Awards for Architecture include the following: Scott Wolf, FAIA (Chair), The Miller Hull Partnership LLP, Seattle; Natalye Appel, FAIA, Natalye Appel + Associates Architects, Houston; Mary Brush, AIA, Brush Architects, LLC, Chicago; Joy Coleman, AIA, Treanor Architects, Kansas City, Missouri; Robert M. Hon, AIAS Student Representative, Savannah; Brenda A. Levin, FAIA, Levin & Associates Architects, Los Angeles; Michael J. Mills, FAIA, Mills + Schnoering Architects, LLC, Princeton, New Jersey; G. Martin Moeller, Assoc. AIA, National Building Museum, Washington, DC; and Ed Soltero, AIA, Office of the University Architect –Arizona State University. Tempe, Arizona.

For more information on all the winning projects, please visit