RAIC Awards–Green Building

ARCHITECT D’Ambrosio Architecture + Urbanism
LOCATION Victoria, British Columbia

Located in downtown Victoria, the Atrium is a seven-storey 200,000-square-foot mixed office and commercial building, with two levels of underground parking. Large floor plates accommodate a wide variety of tenancies with exceptional interior comfort. The namesake atrium functions as an arrival hall, social space and performance venue that brings natural light and visual interest deep into the building. The project prioritized energy-efficient and environmentally conscious operation and has been certified LEED Gold through the Canada Green Building Council.

Occupying the length of a city block, the Atrium actively engages its civic context. To complement Victoria’s historic downtown and to reintegrate the site into the urban fabric, the building takes a mid-rise form (seven storeys tall), built to the street walls to give definition to the public realm. The frontages are animated by two main entrances (one on each of the two most prominent streets) and by the mostly glazed ground floor of shops, cafés and restaurants. Bordering the site are rain gardens with trees that, in addition to softening the streetscape, manage on-site rainwater and catch and clean polluted street runoff.

The structure, built around the perimeter of the site, forms a central atrium space that, through its unique wood-structured skylight, allows daylight into the heart of the building while serving as a return air plenum for the displacement ventilation system. The interior finishes of the atrium–including the maximum amount of wood allowed by code–were used to add visual warmth and human scale to the dramatic space. The investment in natural and durable materials demonstrates the owners’ commitment to the revitalization of downtown Victoria.

Driving the design process were thoughtful considerations of site ecology and community–evidenced by amenities such as sheltering niches and canopies, public seating, bicycle racks, lighting, artwork and a richly landscaped buffer between street and sidewalk. Through careful handling of the street frontages, program uses such as retail shops, cafés and restaurants contribute to an inviting and comfortable public realm.

Water conservation efforts include the use of low-flow fixtures, the storage of sanitary waste until off-peak hours to reduce loads on municipal infrastructure, and the planting of local grasses which drastically reduce irrigation needs–achievements that have been recognized by the Capital Regional District, which awarded the Atrium with its 2011 EcoStar Award for Integrated Watershed Management.

Both present and future energy concerns were meticulously considered, alongside issues of materials, resources and the life cycle of the building. Furthermore, education and information sharing is achieved through the obvious features of the building alongside tours to the public, and a sustainability awareness program for new tenants.

Jury Comments

The Atrium is a thoughtful and elegant intervention in downtown Victoria that promises to provide considerable social, ecological and economic value to a previously largely abandoned urban block. The proposition and resulting design of this new high-density office and retail complex embodies all of the ambition and spirit of the emerging notion of regenerative design that emphasizes the catalytic role buildings can offer in increasing the social and natural capital of the places where they are situated. 

The jury for this award was comprised of Richard Kassner, FRAIC; Ray Cole, FRAIC; and Bruce Lorimer, FRAIC.