Haldimand County Central Administration Project, Cayuga, Ontario

The Haldimand County Central Administration Project, by Thier+Curran Architects, is a uniquely designed building that was created with smaller elements to fit its modest hometown, while maintaining civic dignity.

Photo Credit: Tom Arban

Located just south of Hamilton in Cayuga, Ontario, the project has been sensitively scaled and massed to ensure the contextual fit of a large building in a small town. Where it is adjacent to single-family dwellings to the west, the building was intentionally reduced to a single storey to better relate to its neighbours.

Facing south towards the arena, civic gravitas is provided by a new civic plaza that is defined by stone walls and paving stones that lead to the main entrance. A seating cluster, feature planters for stormwater retention and county agricultural plantings break down the scale of the plaza, while a walkway provides a pedestrian link from the civic building to the arena.

Extensive new planting surrounds the Central Administration Project, including along the upgraded Chippewa Street and between the building and the parking area, helping to soften the transition from landscape to hard surfaces. Photo Credit: Tom Arban

Despite a tight site, the architecture team created a high-quality workplace for Haldimand County’s staff, a civic beacon for the County, and a dignified but not overly elaborate Council Chamber used also as a Courtroom. The Council Chamber / POA Courtroom and support spaces are pulled to the southeast and expressed on the exterior as a focal element.

Access to natural light is an important tenet of the design, with generous windows throughout. Operable windows in all office areas provide natural ventilation for greater thermal comfort, especially during shoulder seasons. Thermal comfort is further augmented with small, localized zoning of the HVAC system to allow greater control and temperature response.

Two staff rooms of different qualities have been provided. The third floor staff room acts as a quiet space for reflection and gathering of thoughts while the ground floor space is larger and more active, spilling out to an adjacent outdoor terrace. Both feature varied seating types and styles, allowing choice and varied degrees of socialization.

Photo Credit: Tom Arban

Stairs have been designed not as a utilitarian afterthought, but as daylit spaces with doors on hold-open devices, making them appealing and encouraging use. A secure card-reader-controlled staff entrance was installed in the south stairwell with convenient access to all levels, including the basement mudroom.

The mudroom serves field staff with lockers for field wear and a decontamination shower. A sick room and a wellness / multi-purpose room includes adjacent showers and washrooms, supplying additional amenities for staff.

The central two-storey lobby/atrium is a glassy focal point that organizes the building’s circulation with overlook from the second floor. Service spaces and circulation are located behind the lobby, away from office areas for maximum office flexibility. Large expanses of workstations have been avoided by breaking up areas with support space clusters, defining smaller “neighbourhoods” for staff comfort and privacy.

Photo Credit: Tom Arban

*The workstation layout reflects the overall goal of providing access to daylight.   Generally, workstations have been clustered to the north of the building in an open, flexible, efficient office loft space. This frees up the building perimeter for shared circulation, minimizing private space on the windows,” write the architects.

The remainder of the ground floor is clad in a warm, rich gray brick while the upper stories are differentiated with a sleek panel cladding system, giving a smooth modern finish. The main entrance is identified by a generous steel frame canopy with the warmth of wood decking exposed on its underside, which extends to the driveway to mark the entrance.

Photo Credit: Tom Arban

The elongated two-storey lobby is heavily glazed for civic transparency with large overhangs that provide sun control and feature the same wood deck as the entrance canopy. Extending from the lobby is the main public stair with an illuminated roof lantern reaching skyward.

To animate the façade and prevent the building from looking too institutional in a residential context, varied window sizes are carefully patterned. Larger areas of accent windows are placed at strategic locations such as corners and the central circulation aisle of the workstation area to allow long views. Colour is used as an inexpensive design tool throughout the building, with wood and stone accents in highly visible areas for maximum impact.

Sustainable design features include stormwater retention in planters and perforated piping for natural recharge, an energy efficient heat pump-type HVAC system, localized instantaneous hot water heaters to avoid water storage, and vestibules to limit heat loss.