Newmarket Operations Centre

PROJECT Newmarket Operations Centre, Newmarket, Ontario
ARCHITECT RDH Architects Inc.
PHOTOS Tom Arban

Municipal operations centres rarely attract attention from designers or the public, despite their functions being critical to the life of most communities. The Newmarket Operations Centre represents an attempt to celebrate these services with a new civic landmark, promoting the town as a well-managed, forward-thinking and sustainable community. The primary design challenge was to reconcile these goals with complex technical requirements in a robust and very economical structure. The building’s identity is defined by a rigorously pragmatic design vocabulary using off-the-shelf components; it embodies a rethinking of the municipal operations centre consciously aimed at setting a new national standard for the design of this underappreciated typology.

Located in an industrial park visible from Mulock Drive–one of the primary entry points into Newmarket, the 6,100-square-metre program consolidates three previously scattered municipal departments and includes offices, meeting and training spaces, and facilities for the storage, repair and washing of vehicles and equipment. The 11-hectare site includes parking, a works yard, outdoor materials storage and two prefabricated structures in addition to the main building.

A 4.2-metre change in grade is exploited, using a simple gabion basket retaining wall and landscaped extension of the building’s green roof, to provide a secure separation between public access at the upper level and the works yard below. This gesture incidentally creates the illusion, when entering the site, of two distinct structures.

The building is conceived as a sequence of parallel programmatic bars of alternating character. The public atrium and the three fleet work zones are daylit great rooms that use a minimalist industrial aesthetic to create a restrained and elegant background for work. All other spaces are housed in lower interstitial volumes. A circulation spine threads these elements together and provides secure checkpoints between public, administrative, and fleet zones which often operate at different hours.

All users enter at the upper level of the public atrium, where reception and administrative offices are located; descending the grand stair one finds meeting spaces, training rooms and a cafeteria. Staff can access changerooms underneath the green roof, emerging in the fleet work areas. Full-height glazed bifold overhead doors frame the entire north and south faces of these rooms, allowing one-way drive-through access to large vehicles. These doors are clad in curtain wall and appear, when closed, as a seamless continuation of the building envelope. When open they provide a large canopy, a continuous interior/exterior workspace, and effective cross-ventilation to the majority of the building. A suspended welded wire mesh ceiling acts as a scrim over the building’s mechanical systems and structure while also preventing birds from nesting within.

Green strategies to achieve LEED Silver accreditation include geothermal heating and cooling, daylighting and natural ventilation to almost all occupied spaces, an intensive green roof, solar hot water heating, stormwater reuse, and naturalized, drought-resistant planting. Furthermore, the new site is a former brownfield, while the site of the former Operations Centre near the town centre will be reclaimed as part of a public park.

Jury: This project elevates an ordinary brief for a municipal operations centre into an exercise in formal refinement and economy that sets new standards for such civically crucial but architecturally neglected buildings. Through a rigorous, analytical approach, it reconciles demanding technical requirements with a crisply hewn architecture of sobriety and simplicity. Functional efficiency is matched by a clear commitment to sustainability, as well as the laudable aim of enriching the building’s wider environs. CA

Client Town of Newmarket (Brian Jones, Director Public Works Services)
Architect Team Bob Goyeche, Tony Lopes, Geoff Miller, Scott Wilson
Structural Engineers Halsall Associates Ltd.
Mechanical, Electrical & Sustainability Jain & Associates
Civil A.M. Canderas Associates Inc.
Landscape NAK Design Group
Builder Bird Construction
Area 6,115 m2
Budget $21.3 M
Completion October 2010