University of Waterloo School of Architecture officially opens in Cambridge

The official opening celebration for the University of Waterloo, Cambridge School of Architecture located in the transformed century-old Silk Mill on the banks of the Grand River will be held Friday, October 22 at 10:30am at 5 15 Melville Street South in Cambridge, Ontario. The new school is designed by Levitt Goodman Architects, a firm well known for their renovation projects.

A common strategy in many Levitt Goodman renovation projects is the process of intervention as a thematic architectural device engaged in the reinvention of the building, offering the ability to both highlight the specific character of the old building and juxtapose the new elements. This project focuses on three interventionist approaches carving, assembly and objets d’art.

Construction of the existing Silk Mill occurred in three phases the second phase left an alley-like void between the new portion and the original building, while the third and final phase provisionally filled in this void with floors and a roof. The once filled-in space between two of the old buildings was re-excavated to form a new 3-storey atrium. This atrium forms the main social and circulation space, connects the main entrance on Melville Street with the Grand River Walk and serves as the orientation point for various programme elements.

The Musagedes Design Library is positioned at a corner of the second floor overlooking both the Grand River and downtown Cambridge. The careful assemblage of built-in and loose library furniture combined with the existing structural rhythm creates cinematic-like views of the city and river as students browse for books. Long wood desks and Japanese tatami mat benches run the entire length of the perimeter walls of the library. The library shelves themselves are treated as elements with which to create intimate spaces and these extraordinary frame-by-frame views.

Two giant monolithic steel stairs, each weighing 2 tons, are suspended at the end of the Atrium space. These stairs form the main circulation path vertically through the school. The upper stair is hung by steel rods from an existing beam retained during the cutting of the aluminum “slot.” The stairs themselves operate like a Richard Serra sculpture making evident the scale of the space and the fragility of the bodies occupying it.

For more information on the school’s design, please contact Janna Levitt at (416) 922-3131 ext.31 or For more information on the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, its programs, students and faculty, or background on the move to Cambridge, please visit