Perimeter Institute for Research in Theoretical Physics

Architect Saucier + Perrotte Architectes

Location Waterloo, Ontario

Riding the controversial line between public and private space, this award-winning private research institute attempts to subvert the usual hard thresholds established by private enterprise in the public realm. The site is on the shore of Silver Lake, at the northern edge of Waterloo’s downtown core and the southern edge of the city’s central park. Adjacent to the primary pedestrian access between the university campus and the city centre, the site embodies a space between clearly defined worlds.

Encompassing a varied program comprising research spaces, offices, library, meeting and seminar spaces, 210-seat lecture theatre, restaurant and gym, the design is inspired by the nebulous spaces occupied by the subjects of theoretical physics, at once micro- and macro-cosmic, rich in information and of indeterminate form and substance. Located between the city and the park, the Perimeter Institute expands and inhabits the improbable space of the line that separates the two. The building defines the secure zones of the Institute’s facilities within a series of parallel walls, embedded in an erupting ground plane that reveals a large reflecting pool. The north faade, facing the park across the pool, communicates the Institute as an organism, a microcosm of discrete elements. The south faade, facing the city across train tracks and the city’s main arterial road, presents the Institute as a unified entity, but of enigmatic scale and content. Entry to the Institute is possible from the north along the reflecting pool, as well as from the south, under the new ground plane.

The interior of the Institute is organized around two central spaces, the main hall on the ground floor and the garden on the first floor. Flanking the two spaces are the offices for staff and researchers. The garden is spanned by three bridges that puncture all planes, including the north and south faades. The bridges are conduits for quick access to facilities and information, and formally bind this unlikely and emerging institute for fundamental physics research.

Amale Andraos: With a simple initial concept of two program bars clearly articulated around a central space, the research institute proceeds to unfold into a successful choreography between inside and outside–allowing constant views from one to another and organizing the mass of program around light courts sectionally distributed throughout the building. While the restrained palette and elegant combination of materials further contributes to the interior’s sense of clarity and calm–ensuring focus and concentration–the exterior faades’ almost hyper-real resolution in a kind of scientific expression announces to its surroundings the exciting intellectual endeavours happening on the inside.

Client Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

Architect Team Gilles Saucier, Andre Perrotte, Audrey Archambault, Anna Bendix, Andrew Butler, Trevor Davies, Dominique Dumais, Maxime Gagne, Jean-Louis Leger, Laurence Lebeux, Christine Levine, Eric Majer, Sergio Morales, Quinlan Osborne, Pierre-Alexandre Rheaume, Guillaume Sasseville, Samantha Schneider, Sudhir Suri

Structural Blackwell Engineering Limited

Mechanical/Electrical Crossey Engineering Ltd.

Civil Stantec Consulting Limited

Landscape Saucier + Perrotte Architectes

Contractor Eastern Construction

Acoustics Acoustics Engineering Ltd.

Area 64,000 Ft2

Budget $24.5 M

Completion September 2004

Photography Marc Cramer