Newmarket Operations Centre

ARCHITECT RDH Architects Inc.
LOCATION Newmarket, Ontario

Municipal operations centres rarely attract attention from designers or from the public at large. At the same time, the various departments that contribute to the upkeep of a town or city’s physical environment are critical to the life of the community and deserve to be celebrated.

Consolidating three existing municipal departments, the building will replace aging facilities on two other sites–one of which will be reclaimed as part of a neighbouring public park, and will relocate components from a third. This strategy will allow the Town of Newmarket to realize major operational savings by sharing resources between departments. The program includes staff offices, meeting and training spaces, an emergency command centre, a works yard, facilities for vehicle storage, repair and washing, and interior and exterior materials storage.

The site is a former brownfield located in an industrial park near the intersection of Highway 404 and Mulock Drive, one of the primary entry points into the town. A one-storey change in grade across the site is exploited to provide a secure separation between public access at the upper level and the works yard below. A 4.2-metre-high gabion basket retaining wall defines the upper-level public parking lot while a landscaped extension of the building’s intensive, accessible green roof provides an additional visual barrier, creating the illusion, when viewed from the north, of two distinct structures.

The project is conceived as a sequence of parallel programmatic bars of alternating character. The entry atrium and fleet work areas are grand daylit halls; smaller-scaled rooms such as offices, change areas, and mechanical rooms are arranged in lower volumes between. Recessed mechanical roofs are placed on top of three of these interstitial bars, while the fourth receives a 600-millimetre-deep intensive green roof that extends north along the staff and visitor parking lot. Capless glazed curtain wall surrounds the double-height rooms, providing expansive views into the surrounding landscape. A central circulation spine threads the program together and provides the opportunity for secure checkpoints between public zones, administrative work areas, and the various fleet work areas which often operate at different hours.

Serving as a the primary entry point for all users, the triple-height atrium’s grand scale is intended as a reminder of the building’s civic importance. The exposed steel structure, polished concrete floors and open mesh ceiling echo the fleet work areas and are complemented by ample daylight and views to the surrounding green spaces.

Presenting a unique design challenge, the need for 20 overhead doors sized for easy access to the storage, repair and wash areas by trucks, snowplows and other large equipment meant that standard rolling door mechanisms were rejected in favour of a bi-fold system that is typically seen in aircraft hangars. The doors are clad entirely in double-glazed curtain wall and installed flush with the primary building envelope. These allow for transparent and fully daylit workspaces while maintaining the thermal continuity of the envelope.

In addition to the green roof, daylighting and natural ventilation, green strategies include a geothermal heating and cooling system, solar hot water heating, stormwater collection for irrigation, and provisions for a future wind turbine.

GH: The beauty of the project is the simple rigour that has been applied to a normally profane building typology. The architects have elevated an operations centre to the level of an art gallery. The modernist vocabulary is appropriate and well executed.

JPL: When planning utility buildings, municipal authorities rarely aim for architectural excellence. The City of Newmarket should be praised for going along with this rigorous and intelligently designed project. The architects were able to cleverly reinvent the topography protecting reception and office areas from workshops, vehicular storage and truck yards. One can easily imagine allowing the public to visit parts of this facility in order to better understand the city’s efforts towards more sustainable development.

PR: There is a certain heroism to this project in terms of how it deals with both program and site. Its scale deals with the contextual environs in a way that will be perceivable. The scale, massing and response to landscape grading is excellent. The design doesn’t try to do too much, and it does what it does beautifully. The world would benefit from more projects like this.

Client The Town of Newmarket
Architect Team Bob Goyeche, Tony Lopes, Geoff Miller, Carlos Tavares, Scott Wilson
Structural Halsall Associates Ltd.
Mechanical/Electrical Jain Associates Ltd.
Civil Canderas Associates Inc.
Landscape NAK Design Group Inc.
Contractor Bird Construction
Area 6,115 m2
Budget $22.4 M
Completion June 2010